Apparently I missed a very important occasion last week. Sunday, Sept. 8 was Grandparents Day, created by Marian McQuade of West Virginia as a day to remind families to visit their grandparents. She lobbied her idea through her local senators, and they introduced Grandparents Day to the White House.
Since President Jimmy Carter signed it into law in 1978, it falls every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. There is also a Grandparents Day song by Johnny Prill called “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa.”
After having given up on the hope of becoming a grandmother, our little miracle child, the one the fertility doctor said was never going to happen, was born after 23 years to my son and daughter-in-law. I still remember the day they brought over the pregnancy test stick with the positive symbol in the window. Wow! What a thrill.
Two years later, Catie Bug (Catherine) claims more and more of my heart (and my energy). When she says, “I love you, grandma,” I absolutely melt with happiness. Her first real sentence, however, after climbing up into the seat of my car was, “Gimme keys.”
Even as aging adults, many of us have fond memories of our own PawPaw, Big Daddy, MaMaw, Nana or whatever names of endearment they are called.
Both my maternal and paternal sets were good, decent people, who loved their grandbabies, and I’m blessed to share their bloodline. My mom’s parents raised eight children during the Depression, and everyone turned out well. My grandmother, whom I called Mama Gert (short for Gertrude), was a God-fearing Methodist lady who shared her home with sometimes 20-plus family members, including Great Aunts Minnie and Mattie and two in-laws with their eight children.
My maternal grandfather, Daddy Lewis, was a World War I veteran with damaged lungs from the mustard gas used during the war. He was a school bus driver, mechanic, jack-of-all-trades, and one of the worst farmers in Crenshaw County, Ala.
I didn’t know my paternal grandfather as he died very young of typhoid fever, leaving my grandmother with four little boys to raise. He was a traveling salesman of Watkins Products out of the back of his T-Model Ford. He was also the worst farmer in Autauga County, Ala.
His widow, Viola Pearl, became a nurse and sent her four sons off to World War II. She was one of those “Gold Star” mothers who had several sons in battle. Each pane of her front window displayed a gold star to represent her boys. Miraculously, they all returned alive. Known to be a “pistol ball,” Mama Cherry died in her nineties in a very bad mood in the last nursing home that hadn’t already kicked her out.
A teacher once asked her students to describe their grandparents, and this account came from one of her little scholars:
“I like to spend Thanksgiving with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live in a big brick house, but Grandpa got retarded, and they moved to Arizona. Now, they live in a tin box and have rocks painted green to look like grass.
They ride around on their bicycles and wear name tags because they don’t know who they are anymore. They go to a building called a wrecked center, but they must of got it fixed ‘cause it looked OK to me. They do exercises there, but they don’t do them very good. There is a swimming pool, too, but they don’t swim. They just jump up and down in it with their hats on.
At their gate, there is a doll house with a man sitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape. Sometimes, the grandparents sneak out and go riding in their golf carts. Nobody there cooks. They just eat out. And, they eat the same thing every night: Early Birds.
Ready or Not
And as Will Shriner once said, “I want to die peacefully in my sleep like Grandpa, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”
If you are fortunate enough to still have your grandparents, do something special for them even if it’s a week or two late and even if you have to sneak them past the man in the doll house.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.