Monday, April 04, 2005

The Grandpa

Published April 4, 2005

The kids and J.D. took Grandpa Pat for his 75th birthday to Pac Bell Park last Thursday to watch the A’s and Giants duke it out before baseball’s official season opener on Sunday. The traditional Bay rivalry is a sign that the season is upon us and Spring has sprung. Baseball is more than a sport, it’s a tradition that brings generations together where Grandpa, Dad and the kids can take their sides, cheer for their favorite players, enjoy junk food and the sounds of the park on a cool San Francisco evening. My kids went up to the attic to retrieve all their ballpark gear in case they catch a fly, and they cleaned out the car for Grandpa. They would do anything for ‘the Grandpa’. Grandpa Pat always sends them home with some little book, trinket or gift. ‘The Grandpa’ by his very nature is a generous soul.
I remember my Grandpa Chet taking us to a Giants game at Candlestick Park when I was little. He also enjoyed taking us to the San Francisco Zoo. They are the best memories I have with him. Just being in the car with him was a privilege. He made simple little excursions into adventures. He told us things that we thought were special secrets. He also gave us birthday spankings that sounded terrible but made us laugh ourselves silly. There wasn’t a single thing about Grandpa Chet that I can remember that doesn’t bring a smile to my face. He always had a treat in his pocket for us. He spoke to us an octave higher than he spoke to anyone else. It’s funny how grandparents worldwide in any language will take it up a whole octave when speaking to their grandchildren. He lived with us the last two years of his life as he battled cancer. He was small in stature but large in spirit. I would have done anything for him. He died when I was nine years old and 33 years later I still miss him terribly. The impression ‘the Grandpa’ makes on the life of his grandchildren is indelible.

My father’s metamorphosis into ‘the Grandpa’ was sudden and inexplicable. He has six grandkids and he treats them all like they are the only grandchild he has. He baby-sits my nephews for my sister & brother in law when they are both working and he plans his whole retirement around when “he gets to baby-sit” because he loves it and looks forward to it. He picks the kids up from school, makes sure they do their chores and homework and he talks to them about life. My daughter Birdy was visiting last week when ‘Pop-Pop’ babysat and she had a lot of ‘Pop’ stories when she came home from her visit. “Pop made us a great breakfast Mom! We had eggs and toast and Easter cake!” “You had what?” I said. “Yeah, he asked us what we wanted and we told him we wanted cake, ice cream, eggs and toast. He said it was no problem at all and we could have whatever we wanted”. How nice. She said it was the best breakfast she’d ever had. She couldn’t say enough about how great the eggs were that Pop made for her and her cousins. “They were the best eggs I ever had Mom.” I know they were the best because it was ‘The Grandpa’ that made them. Pop-Pop is ‘the bomb’ no matter where he is or what he does. He makes watering the lawn fun. He is more interesting than any teacher, including myself, that my kids ever had.
Next Pop-Pop took the kids to Aunt Tricia’s house and he had them pull all the weeds in her backyard while he worked on replacing her floors. The child who pitches a fit when she is asked to clean her own room had a ball pulling hundreds of weeds, picking lemons to make lemonade and helping out Pop-Pop. It was because ‘the Grandpa’ asked her to do it. There is no way that same child would happily pull any weeds at home. She’d do anything for ‘the Grandpa’. I understand why.
The pedestal that ‘the Grandpa’ stands on is very high. It’s so high no one can surmount it. The Grandpa speaks an octave higher to his grandchildren because the language that they speak is their own secret language and the parents have no ability to comprehend it. He is more tender to his grandchildren than he was to his own children because ‘the Grandpa’ is that mystery to grandchildren that stays alive in their hearts long into their adulthood. Everything ‘the Grandpa’ does is monumental and memorable. Like Peter Pan, ‘the Grandpa’, can mold the hearts and minds of the grandchild like no other by the compliments they give, the affirmations they impart and the love they bestow on their grandchildren. When he talks, they listen and everything he says is the most important thing in the world. I know because I get a full report of it when they return to tell me all about it. ‘The Grandpa’ beats out all the majors, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny by virtue of his being ‘the Grandpa’. It’s no more a mystery than a fact of life.
I look forward to the day when J.D. gets to be ‘the Grandpa’. I’ll be sure to send food and water up the pedestal. I’m sure I’ll need a 30 foot ladder.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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