There used to be a bumper sticker on cars that said “Ask Me About My Grandchildren.” We younger folks used to think it was funny when we got alongside the car and saw it was a tiny old lady who could barely see over the wheel or a slight old man with big glasses and a cap that had the name of the ship he served on in the Navy on it. Grandparents were old people. When we were kids, they probably were the same age we are now, but to us, they were old. They were probably over 30. Maybe even 40.
If you had asked me when I was a teenager, I would have told you I certainly would not look forward to being a grandparent because that meant I had gotten old. Elderly. One foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Being a grandparent was so far beyond my young train of thought that being a grandparent and living in a moon colony had an equal chance of happening. It was an outrageous thought. I’d have to become someone’s parent before becoming a grandparent. Being a teenager, that certainly wasn’t in the plan.
My friends used to joke that I was old when I was young. My brother once told me I was born 40 and just eventually grew into my age. My tastes in everything were more like that of my parents’ generation than my own. They laughed that my friends had posters of Corvettes and Lamborghinis on their bedroom walls, my walls were adorned with posters of the Ford Country Squire, you know, the big wagon with the wood on the sides. This was not true. I did not have a poster of the Country Squire, but I did have one of Ann-Margret in a sparkly dress that left little to the imagination.
I am now older. My wife says I finally grew into my age. I am a husband and a father of two beautiful daughters. We have a little house in a little town with a little driveway and a couple of cars. One of the cars is a minivan. Not quite the station wagon, but the modern equivalent. We have flower boxes and bird feeders and a little flag near our mailbox that we change with the seasons and holidays. Our life is quiet and simple.
I am also a grandfather. I am not quite 50 years old. I looked back at my own grandfather and realized he was the same age I am now when I was little. I guess being a grandfather has nothing to do with being old. Being old has nothing to do with being a grandfather. I want to be the kind of grandfather mine was. He was far from a perfect man, but in our eyes he was larger than life. I hope I can be a fraction of the role model he was.
My grandson is 5 years old. He’s talkative and spirited and has as much energy as a nuclear power plant. He’s well-spoken and charming, even when he wakes you up at 5 in the morning to play. There is excitement and wonder in his eyes at all times. He is full of questions and queries and when you answer, he savors the response and stores it away for future use. He’s smart and funny and has a laugh that is infectious.
We see each other every few months. My daughter and her family live a few hours away, but we try to get together as often as we can. It works because we are always excited to see our grandson and he is always excited to see us.
I’m not the stereotypical grandfather. I’m not terribly old. I’m far from elderly, but I am middle aged. My humor is a little more bizarre than the “pull my finger” variety. My daughters, grandson and I are wired very similarly. We understand each other more than others understand us. We share a common thread that is our and ours alone. I’d try to explain it, but it defies explanation. I imagine as I get a little older, I might be more like my grandfather. I might slip my grandson a couple of dollars when his mother isn’t looking. I might sneak him in the kitchen at our house and eat some cookies before dinner without his mother knowing about it. We’ll tell slightly inappropriate jokes and comments. We’ll sit together on the couch and try to watch westerns until he gets bored and wants to do something else. Heaven knows what that something else will be, but I will give it my best to participate.
The other night, we got a FaceTime call from him. It was completely unexpected, which made it all the better. At the end of the call, my wife and I told him we loved him and he just kinda giggled. With a little prodding from his mother, he told us he loved us too. I’m glad he told us. Otherwise, when people saw the bumper sticker on our car to ask about our grandchildren, we’d have to tell them he was a meanie.
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.