Monday, October 19, 2015

Pondering grandparenting...

While waiting in line to pay for my thrift-shop purchases, I struck up a conversation with the person behind me, a tall, slender woman with gray hair accompanied by two small boys.

The boys had that kind of can't-keep-still energy common to male members of the 6-and-under set who are forced to shop for winter coats on a warm autumn afternoon.

We had crossed paths within the store several times, and while I appreciated the patience she displayed as the lads repeatedly eluded her efforts to try on jackets I didn't envy her task.

"You've got your hands full," I said knowingly.

"Sure do," she agreed. "These are my grandson and great-grandson. This one here's the other one's uncle."

"You have a great-grandson!" I exclaimed. "You don't look old enough to have a great-grandchild."

She laughed and said, "I'm in my 60s. I'm 62."

"I'm in my 60s also," I replied, "but my oldest grandchild is about the same age as your boys and I'm 64."

We exchanged a few more words before it was my turn to check out. After paying, I turned back, said goodbye and walked to my car. As I drove home, our brief conversation kept running through my mind. I am two years older than the woman I met yet she already has great-grandchildren. Great grandchildren — the very concept fills me with awe.

Only one of my grandparents was alive when I was a child and since she died before I was 9, my memories of her are vague at best. Because I grew up without really having a grandparent experience, I was pleased knowing that my own children's memories would be different. My first three kids grew up with all four grandparents and although my father-in-law died shortly after my youngest child was born my children were well into their teens and young adulthood when their remaining grandparents passed away.

Years have a way of speeding by. Six years ago, my husband, Ralph, and I became grandparents and within two years our grandchild count totaled four. Although entering the third-generation stage of life happened quickly, the likelihood of us becoming great-grandparents is slim.

A recent picture of our family - three generatons

Ralph and I were married for 10 years before our first child was born and our adult children seem to be following a similar pattern. This doesn't make me sad or disappointed. Amazement is a more apt description of how I feel, especially after meeting someone who has taken such a different path.

Although I've been a grandparent since I was 58, the concept still feels new. There are many times when Ralph and I have looked at each other and wondered how we can possibly be grandparents already when we still feel like kids ourselves. This growing-older thing is an enigma. Time marches on regardless of how we feel about the passing of years.

I'm glad I turned around the other day at the thrift shop to talk with the woman behind me in line. Tapping the opportunity to take a tiny peek into her world helped broaden my own horizons, and if that prompted a little introspective survey of my own history, all the better.

It doesn't really matter if we become parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or go through life without becoming a parent at all. The important thing is not how many progeny we produce but what we choose to do with the one life we have. Our number of offspring pales beside the amount of love, kindness and care we give to others.

No matter how long we live, life is never long enough.

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