In the top middle drawer of my dresser bureau resides an assortment of cards and notes that were attached to gifts given to me by my daughters throughout the years. The cards are a tangible reminder of the act of giving, each one the guardian of a lovely gesture from my girls. The particular gifts have come and gone, some memorable, some more transient, but all share a common thread as tokens of love and affection.
Yet of all the presents that my daughters have given, there are four that stand alone and apart in a class by themselves. These four are highly prized and cherished - my treasures. These gifts are my grandchildren.
I recognize, of course, that my girls didn’t set out to have children for the express purpose of gifting my life with their progeny. Despite appearances to the contrary, I know that I am not the center of all things. It just happens to be a very fortunate secondary effect that my children’s children, individually and collectively, hold the unique place in the pattern and flow of my life that I can think of them as nothing less than gifts of immeasurable value.
My grandkids are a gift of delight. Paradoxically, they offer the delight of parenting but unencumbered by the duties of parenthood. The freedom to enjoy the better part of parenting without reserve is the great pleasure of being a grandparent. A parent’s success is purchased in large part with the fruits of responsibility and obligation. A successful grandparent is one who, on a moment’s notice, can journey back to childhood, temporarily disregarding the impediment of rules, yet careful to balance what is fun with what is right. In many ways, a grandparent is the parent a child thinks they want but knows they shouldn’t have. That contradiction itself expresses the joy, the freedom, the love between grandparent and grandchild.
My grandkids are a gift of reflection. I see my daughters in each of them, in their habits, in their character, in their movements. They are not copies, of course, not the stark facsimile one might see in a mirror but rather the muted image found by looking into a stream of water. There are just enough similarities for nostalgia and remembrance and the hopeful anticipation that they will become, in ways that matter most, like their mothers.
My grandkids are a gift of renewed purpose. I’m the prehistoric playmate, both older and younger than others, at times a child that is somehow not a child. At other times I am a confidante of the silly and the serious. They allow me the chance to offer a perspective that is tempered by time and experience, failures and achievements, losses and victories and to show in small but significant ways what only a life lived can understand: that the journey is the reward.
My grandkids are a gift of perpetuity. The past recedes at an ever-increasing pace. The future rushes toward us at just the time we wish for it to slow down, or better yet: stop. We wish to endure but edging ever closer to a future that doesn’t contain us, we long for our only option: not to be forgotten. Grandkids extend the breadth and length of our place in the stream of human consciousness. I will one day be gone, but for as long as they remember me, I will be here.