When I was young and misbehaving, my mother would reach a point of total frustration and say those famous words that every parent knows: “I can only hope when you grow up that you have children just like you.”
Well, my children are grown, and now I have nine grandchildren — copies of me, and all I can do is hope they turn out better than me. If they do, they are going to have a wall-to-wall existence filled with laughter and fantastic people. They might also write articles for a newspaper. My mom’s chickens have come home to roost.
There is a great temptation to try to step in whenever there is a problem in their lives, but I also know that they must personally realize that there are bumpy roads sometimes. If needed, they know that they have grandparents as a back-stop.
In between times, there are little vignettes that make everything worthwhile.
I do watercolor paintings to keep from going to “seed.” One of my grandchildren was looking at my paintings and said “I like to draw.” I said “Fine,” and proceeded to supply her with a drawing pad and a few pencils. In a while, she showed me what she had done. It was better than anything I could do, and I had green eyes of jealousy. Her twin sister, seeing what she had done, proceeded to draw something that had me beaten hands down. The score was two out of three and I decided to quit before I developed a real big inferiority complex. What more could I teach them — how to add watercolors and stay between the lines?
Grandchildren can surprise you. They know more math than I do, read Shakespeare for English class, and can argue convincingly, especially when it comes to getting the keys for the car or spending money for a date. Now I have two of them who have finished college, and seven in various stages of the education process.
Once in a while they will bring you up short. I’m not wild about massaging the computer all day, so I peruse the daily email, answer what needs answering and, with the press of the “delete” button, flush the rest into the ether.
Once in a great while, I take a look at Facebook. I found the vita of one of my grandchildren and started reading until I got to “marital status.” There was a simple notation that she was married. I was flummoxed! I never got any announcement. I quickly emailed her and asked her, “What gives?”
Her response: “It was a lark” — she had married her friend’s cat to give it an “identity.” She almost gave her old grandpa a heart attack!
But then there are the moments that are heart-wrenching. Just prior to my heart surgery, we had called the family together to let them know what’s what in case I don’t make it.
One condition was that grandma was going to take all the grandkids to Disney World. I was astounded when they told me that they wanted me to be with them in body, not spirit. We decided to make the trip while I was still alive, but unfortunately Disney World was priced beyond my “still alive” budget. What could we do? We started to look around and got the idea of a family cruise. Everyone was ecstatic!
We started planning eight months in advance. First with the cruise line and bookings for 22 people; then came transportation to and from the boat. Everything that could go wrong did. By the time we boarded, I was a bundle of nerves.
The grandchildren had the time of their lives, and it was a joy sitting at a large table being fed as only a cruise boat can.
The next morning, as I was coming topside after having a breakfast full of all the things that had clogged the arteries in the first place, one of the little girls ran up to me saying “Grandpa, Grandpa!” I bent down and said “Yes?” She said, “I love this boat, can we stay here forever?” I looked her in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, if you want to stay here forever, you have to talk to Grandma — she is in charge of the money.” (This was not true but it sure made things interesting for Grandma the rest of the trip.)
I think we have grandchildren to help us face dying, knowing that the world will be in better hands. Surely they can do a better job than we have. The biggest job they face is cleaning up our messes so they can start from scratch.
I recommend to them that the first thing they should do is to toss out all the politicians. Corruption is so widespread that it is highly unlikely that anyone of them will be free from the splatter.
I wish I could leave them with a better world, but with all the problems, I figure if I depart without leaving or intensifying what is already there, I will have done them a favor.
As time goes by, I have no doubt that the grandkids will turn out all right and leave the world in better shape for the next generation.
After all, they come from good stock.
Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.