A Grandparent’s Love

By Janey Womeldorf

I will never have grandchildren. Am I missing out?

My brother is 52 and recently became a grandparent for the first time. Last month, our extended family got together and to our delight, he surprised us all by bringing his new baby granddaughter along. It was the first time I had seen him in his new role of Grandpa, and I saw a side of him I never knew.

He had picked up his little princess from her parents that morning, tucked her safely into her car seat (which I suspect he’d happily keep permanently on his back seat), and then Grandpa and granddaughter drove three hours to our family gathering. I don’t know how many grandfathers would feel comfortable doing that, (or how many new mothers would let them!) but it is clear this relationship is special. When they are together, he swells with love and pride. He beams when she smiles, he laughs when she chuckles, and his face oozes contentment when she sleeps in his arms. She melted his heart and seeing them together melted mine.

Grandchildren do that to you.

That same week, I also visited a girlfriend who had just returned from visiting her first grandchild; the baby girl was just two weeks old. She said that when she held her granddaughter for the first time, the overwhelming surge of love and the immediate bond that rocketed through her was so powerful and instantaneous, even she was taken aback. As she talked, her face lit up, her eyes sparkled, and she could barely get the words out quickly enough. She was a proud, first-time grandparent, and she gushed with love and pride; it gave you goose-bumps.

My mum always wanted lots of grandchildren. We watched “The Waltons” every week growing up, and we all knew she yearned for what Grandma Walton had: Children and grandchildren running in and out the house, everybody gathering around the dinner table joking and laughing, and extended families living close enough that get-togethers were the norm not the exception.

Sadly, life, dreams and one’s own children’s plans don’t always follow the same yellow brick road. It’s a shame really because imagine how happy everybody would be if they did. As it was, in a well-balanced, valiant attempt to increase the odds of plentiful grandchildren, my Mum produced six children of her own – three boys, three girls. Sadly, none of us reproduced with quite the same gusto she did, and some of us never reproduced at all.

Maybe this was a good thing; space was tight. Our house growing up had thee bedrooms and one bathroom; consequently, you never took a bath without yelling first, “Does anyone need the toilet?” just in case. It took years to stop announcing my bathroom habits. All the bedrooms were upstairs. Mum and Dad had one, my three brothers slept in another, and my two sisters and I slept in the third. Bunk beds were the norm until the older children started leaving home – an event that was cause for celebration for us younger ones but miserable for Mum. We tried to console her.

“Mum, don’t think of it as losing a son but gaining a closet,” we urged.

Our words of comfort did little to ease her pain, and she slowly watched her nest grow smaller and quieter. It became apparent the only thing we would share with the iconic Walton family was a house with thin walls; at least, we’d always hear each other say “Goodnight.”

Many grandparents say that grandchildren bring more joy than the real thing because you can give them back. I never had children so I will never know but I imagine it’s like being an aunt – you get to spoil them and have fun but without the diapers and checkbook. You also try not to have favorites. I asked a wise grandmother once about this and she confessed that when it came to her nine grandchildren, she had her favorites – all of them. When you see her with them, you know she’s sincere. They may all be different, but when they are talking with Grandma, she makes them feel like they are the only person in the room. A grandparent’s love has a different magic to it, and I chuckle at what special memories these grandchildren will recall about their grandparents in years to come.

My “Nan” ate Shredded Wheat cereal with hot milk every day for breakfast. She was the only person I knew who liked hot milk on her cereal – apart from me – and I cherished our “quirky” bond; it made me feel extra special. After she was done with the cereal, she would neatly dust off and fold the waxy, paper sleeve that it came in and when we came over to visit, she would pull out these sleeves, a huge box of crayons, and let us draw. She had no money for fancy toys but as grandkids, we neither knew nor cared. I remember sitting for hours drawing on that waxy paper.

My husband’s Grandma would let them have sliced apples and chocolate milk in the bathtub. Fifty years on, this bath-time memory still lights up his face. I should bring him some apples and milk next time he’s in the tub. For it to be authentic though, he’d have to be sharing the bathtub with his brother. On second thoughts, they’re grown men now. Maybe not.

It touches me to think of all the experiences and memories my brother’s new princess is yet to enjoy with her Grandpa. I shall just have to live the experience vicariously through him. Maybe if she ever comes to visit me, I can create a special great-aunt memory instead. I’d save our cereal paper but the only problem is, I prefer oatmeal for breakfast and a round cardboard container might be challenging. Maybe I’ll just make bath time fun instead.

I hear chocolate milk and sliced apples make for magical memories.

Thank you Grandma.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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2 Responses to “A Grandparent’s Love”

  1. Janey, your story was very heart warming. It truly is the little things that matter, like apples and hot milk on cold cereal.

  2. chris w says:

    Where’s the “like” button?
    Great article Janey!

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