It’s Tough to be a Grandkid When You’re a Teenager

My grandpa is in hospice care right now and it’s got me thinking about him, and the time I spent with him and grandma when I was a kid.

I have a lot of great memories of spending time with my paternal grandparents.  They lived in a small town in central Illinois and a few times a year we would make the 3 hour drive to their house spend a few days. Most summers I would spend a few weeks there with either my younger sister or a cousin, and we’d have a blast.  We would do all sorts of things that my parents would alternately laugh and be shocked at if I told them now.  Do you know what lawn darts are?  A big, dart with a 4 inch metal tip that you would hurl into the air with the hope that it would land in one of the 3 foot wide circles that you spread on the lawn.  At least that’s how we played it.  Come to think of it, the ‘rules’ are a little fuzzy.  How we didn’t impale ourselves I’ll never know.  We went running BAREFOOT in the street.  We played in the wood paneled basement that was basically a museum of curiosities.  My grandpa’s wood shop was in the basement and the door was always open. Electric tools. We never went in there, but I know some other cousins did.  Always back in time for dinner at grandma and grandpa’s.  Then we’d play Uno or Connect Four until it was time for bed.  At Halloween they would always make the drive to our house in the suburbs and dad and grandpa would take my sister and I trick or treating. They would stand down on the sidewalk while we marched up and rang the bell.  Then they’d help us sort through our loot when we got home.  Taking out the sketchy home made popcorn balls and unwrapped candy.  (Do people still do that?)

Then we moved to California and I got older.  I was a teenager.  Dad would call his parents and ask me to say ‘hi’ to them. I would roll my eyes in that cliched teenager way and humor him- talk for a few minutes about school or the weather.  Conversations with them were so boring I thought.  They were OLD.  I didn’t have anything in common with them and I didn’t know what to tell them.

In my mid 20’s I became interested in my history. Their history.  I did the whole ancestry (dot) com thing and learned a lot.  I contacted all my relatives and got more family tree information.  Then I started asking specifics of my grandparents.  Important things, like, what color was grandpa’s hair was he was younger, and what kind of jobs did he have?  Where did they meet?  And I wrote it all down.

A few years ago my grandma passed away.  She was a great woman and I remember her smile, her laugh and the fun.  I wished I stayed in touch with her more during the recent years.  More than the cards with pictures of the kids every now and then.  My grandpa had been in a nursing home for about six months until recently and I called and wrote more often.  That makes no sense.  He has no short term memory, and that’s when I decide to communicate more?  This week he was moved to hospice care.  Not surprising as he’s 97 now, but still.

I try really hard not to have regrets, but I do here a little.  I wish I had done a better job of staying in touch with them over the years; I can’t go back.  But I’m going to try to remember all those stories, all those little things, and write them down so I can share them with my kids, when they are teenagers.  Even if they roll their eyes.


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