How do you love a child? How do you become the memory that makes someone smile forever? Does your life exemplify your ethical beliefs and encourage children to follow you?
There is no better honor than to answer the above questions with a, “Yes.” The greatest gift we have as adults is children. It doesn’t matter if we are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or a friend of a child. To love a child and have the love returned is the blessing that is beyond all the riches in the world. Period.
John was three and watching his favorite grandmother make biscuits. He watched as the flour hit the dough board and dusted the air. She was talking to him the whole time and laughed as the white powder settled on his eyelashes.
John had been having a lot of trouble with the name “Grandma.” Since he was born with six grandmothers, he would get them confused easily. Two great, great-grandmothers, two great-grandmothers, and two grandmothers all living in the same town! He was the first grandchild. It was asking too much to remember them all. Out of all those grandmothers he only had one living grandfather.
Suddenly, while standing beside his grandmother in her kitchen, he came up with a solution.
His coal brown eyes opened wide as he tugged his grandmother’s apron, “You gonna be Grandpa!”
“John, I am Grandma, and he is your Granddaddy.”, she replied as she pointed to her husband.
“You Grandpa and he Granddaddy!” he emphatically stated again. Then he walked away.
From that moment on, nine grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren would forever call her Grandpa.
The name would also be representative of unconditional love. A love that allowed her to be called whatever these children wanted to call her.
Many people have crossed my path in life, but without question, I have never known anyone quite like her.
She didn’t just say, “I love you,” she showed it in countless ways.
There was nothing she loved more than children. For those of us who were in her life, we all knew that to be fact. When she played or talked with us, she became our age.
She even let us play with the wrinkles on her hand, and make fun of her false teeth until she got new ones. She laughed at herself and was never embarrassed by any of us.
I can recall many of my cousins and me being in her small home at one time. She would play games with us all day, fish with us, tell us stories, and stay up way past her bedtime.
Then right before she went to her room to join my sleeping grandfather, she would sit at the end of the hall and read her Bible.
That is how she made us understand the concept of priorities.
When she played games, she would never let any of us undeservedly win. By doing so, she taught us to have the grace to lose and understand the word fairness.
We all stayed with Grandpa many times in our lives. She would make sure she had everyone’s favorite food in the house. She would cook until her old apron was soiled and dark. She taught us that in someone’s eyes we were each special.
Her garden bloomed in July with white gladiolas that reached up to the sun. She always wanted white because they were pure and heavenly. She taught us that out of dirt, toil, and care comes beauty.
It is hard for me to write all that she was and did in her 97 years on earth. I could fill the whole book with words and stories about this remarkable, kind human being.
Grandpa’s laughter continues to fill my heart today. Her hands calm my soul while her spirit still wraps me in unconditional love and comfort.
We bring children into our world hoping they will be perfect and amazing. I think instead we need to be as close as we can to amazing and perfect for them. To make a child feel loved unconditionally, feel special, feel like we would rather be with them than anything else, is honoring the gift that God gave us in the first place.
Years ago, I could not decide what to give Grandpa for Christmas. She had a history of gifts going in her hope chest to save for a rainy day.
I decided to write a column about her and send it to her county paper in Tennessee. The newspaper printed the story using an entire page. The title in bold lettering was, “MERRY CHRISTMAS GRANDPA!”
The name my brother gave her all those years ago was now a bold headline, and that was as it should be.
For a child to grow up making us a headline in their heart, a love that will never die long after we are gone, is the best blessing we will give them and ourselves.
“And her children will arise up and call her blessed,” were the words on a cross-stitched sampler hanging above Grandpa’s bed when she left this earth. No truer words were ever written.