One of my least favorite bumper stickers is “As Me About My Grandkids.” First, it is a presumptuous request. Okay, I suppose if the driver’s grandchildren graduated Harvard at age 12 or 14, or better yet, appeared on “Master Chef-Junior”,the sticker is appropriate. Otherwise I’d rather see “Ask Me About Selling Stocks Short.”
Second, if I had the chutzpah to slap on the “Ask Me…” bumper sticker, my awkward answer would have to be: “Yeah, I know that I look old enough to have grandchildren – I have thinning hair, a well-hidden hearing-aid, and wrinkles that scream out “collecting social security. I am 66, but in fact I DO NOT YET HAVE GRANDCHILDEN – so stop asking me!”
I was an old dad, being 40 and 43 when my boys Craig and Matt were born. My classmates who are grandads have kids 8 to 12 years older than mine – thus my non-granddad status. I don’t think I am missing a life affirmation as I did when my wife and I were childless. But right now, we can only spoil our dog Cookie. It would be nice to have that three-generational presence in our life so our gifts wouldn’t be chewed up, and I miss the existential calm of knowing I will have a lengthening family tree branch.
I’ll deal with these pitfalls, real or imagined, and hopefully be a meaningful granddad, not just a patriarch on the family treetop.
But, I tend to lessen my grandparenting envy by imagining the pitfalls of grandparenthood. Take babysitting, for instance. Babysitting is great for retirees who have from 10 to enough alreadyfree hours a week. Sure, babysitting assures that your grandchildren will address you as gramps or grandpa instead of “who are you?” But this practice could take away time otherwise devoted to building bird houses or collecting Bigfoot footprints. Grandparents can satisfy their wanderlust by taking the grandkids along on cruises. A couple of Disney Cruise warnings though: Don’t book character tables for all your breakfasts as Goofy will eventually become unnerving, and don’t buy your grandkids the “all the soda you can drink” package.
I’ll deal with these pitfalls, real or imagined, and hopefully be a meaningful granddad, not just a patriarch on the family treetop. Right now, conventional wisdom, at least on TV, is that meaningful grandfathering involves active touch football, and I am impressed by my friends who are engaged in such frolicking. One friend mentioned that he went trick-or-treating in full costume with his grandchildren. Other friends treat their kids and grandkids to a weekend at an indoor waterpark resort in mid-winter. As a sucker for indoor pools and fake Hawaiian décor this three-generational splash-in is appealing.
I fear, though, I will be too old to do hands-on, active three-generational events with my grandchildren. Instead, I can envision me hosting family sit-down dinners in my senior-living dining room. Hopefully, my grandkids will enjoy salt-free foods. This was my dad’s standard grandparenting event once he moved into Hebrew Senior life when my kids were 12 and 9. I do hope though that I can better my dad and have the wherewithal to orchestrate active family events. I would like to babysit my potential grandchildren, provided I don’t need my own sitter. Yet I understand that hands on grandparenting is not the only scheme in the grand parenting playbook. Dad taught me this.
He demonstrated that you are never too old to do meaningful grandparenting. My nephew, 20 at the time, mentioned he wanted a bar mitzvah. My dad at age 94, took this request and ran with it. Several months later in the function room of Dad’s complex, my nephew was called to a portable Torah in front of 80 or so guests. Due to his age, dad delegated many of the tasks, but he footed the bill and was the impetus for this event. He sat in his wheel chair and took in a perfect grandfatherly moment. He died about 6 months later, leaving a wonderful grandfatherly legacy.
I hope I can, if lucky enough to achieve grandfather-hood, proudly affix this bumper sticker: “As Me About Older Grandparenting” – on either my car or my walker.