Grandparents Are GREAT!

It’s when you lose something that you realize just how valuable it is. It’s true of an object, a memory that’s faded, and of people. Especially when you lose someone as valuable as a grandparent. Grandparents are the people who love unconditionally and have found a generosity and patience they never seemed to have while raising their own children.

My grandfathers were both big men with large personalities. Similar in many ways, but also radically different. My memories of my Grandpa Carter are of a gentle man who laughed and did things with his grandkids. He’d give me grapes off the arbor (They were for canned jellies, and I don’t think we were supposed to be eating them) and tell me about money buried in coffee cans in the yard (such were the stories of depression era survivors). We’d have waffles for breakast when we spent the night with he and Grandma Carter. And if we stayed on a weekend, we’d go to church with them on Sunday. I lost him during my 5th grade year, and I still remember hiding behind the garage at their house in Decatur and crying.

My early memories of my Grandpa Denton are typically of being wherever he wasn’t. The general rule was to stay out of his way. I thought he was mean and didn’t like kids. He never did anything bad to me, but I was sure scared of him. I thought his garage was cool. He seemed to have every tool you could ever need in there, and fans without protective coverings that would cut your fingers off if you got too close. Sitting out in the garage when he was out there with other guys made me feel like a man. Somewhere around the time my Grandpa Carter died, Grandpa Denton had his own serious health scare and I got to know a completely different guy. I’m not privvy to all the internal details, but something changed and this man I’d been afraid of began taking time to teach me how to whittle with a pocket knife. (Which is why my own sons’ recent interest in whittling is cool to me.) He taught me how to ride his three-wheel bike and let me decorate and ride it in a parade one year. He didn’t go to church with Grandma Denton, but I remember the pastor telling he had spoken with my grandpa and that he’d accepted Christ as Savior, so he’d be in heaven. It was comforting news because I’d come to love him and his death was another loss I felt deeply.

My Grandma Carter died shortlyafter Deana & I married. I still remember what it meant to have a new wife who comforted me through that loss. We were blessed to have my Grandma Denton with us for many more years. Her more recent death closed a chapter that survived to adulthood for me only through her – that of having living grandparents. I’m glad my kids got to know their Avon-selling, wig-wearing, story-telling Great-Grandma Denton.

So, I’ve always considered it a treasured part of our marriage that my wife brought four living grandparents into our family life. We’ve not been geographically close for over 20 years, but I’m so glad my children have had the privilege of knowing and loving their great-grandparents. They have memories and stories that are more valuable than they even understand right now. It was such a big deal to me several years ago that I urged Deana to set up pictures of our kids with their great-grandparents. Those pictures are still on display in our home. In more recent years, it’s been snapshots taken during family meals when we’ve been able to make the trip back to central Illinois – still valuable and treasured memories.

Whereas my grandfathers were large characters, Deana’s have been the opposite. Grandpa Ray and Grandpa Sanner were quieter, humble men who worked hard, have provided for their families, and didn’t demand or require much attention for what they’ve accomplished. Not “mushy” men, but quick to demonstrate how much they care through their generosity and by helping out any way they can. Both married to women who were quick to make me feel part of the family. I’d describe Grandma Sanner and Grandma Ray as quick to give out hugs, love, and tell you how glad they are to see you. Between these two gracious women, they knew everyone in the county, and would always show up with a pie (even sugar-free if needed) or some other food item to show they cared. Both quick to laugh about something at a family gathering.

I’m surprised at how overcome I am with emotion as I type this thinking how much I’d love to hear Grandma Ray’s laugh again. She was the first of my wife’s grandparents to whom we had to say goodbye. When I see my wife’s love of children, and watch her make a quilt, I see just how much she was influenced by Ruby Ray. It’s a great tribute to her grandmother that Deana has picked up the role of making quilts for new babies in the family, something Grandma Ray did until she just couldn’t see to finish them anymore.

So, it’s bittersweet that we’ve made such a quick trip to Illinois this weekend and get to see the inlaws who’ve adopted me into their traditions over the last 22+ years of marriage. We’ve gathered to mourn another loss – Grandpa Austin Sanner. Grandpa Sanner was loyal, and committed to caring for other family members when needed. I love Deana’s stories of trips with Grandma and Grandpa Sanner. Made more poignant because new baby Austin (Scott & Becca’s new son) has made the trip from Florida and is making his first visit with some family as we say farewell to his namesake. What an excellent model of how the legacy of family continues on through generations.

Though we don’t see them enough, I’m really glad Deana still has Grandma Pat Sanner and Grandpa Lloyd Ray in her life. As I’ve reflected on this topic, I’m also really grateful for parents (both mine and Deana’s) who are such wonderful grandparents to our kids. For years they made the 4-5 hour drive up to South Elgin for every grandkid birthday. Now they make it a priority in their retirement to schedule extended visits to see their grandkids in Texas. (And we like to think they do it to see us too.) They’re generous and sometimes give too much to their grandkids, or even let them get away with stuff they never would have let their own kids get away with. But they always show up or call to share their unconditional Grandma/Grandpa/Gram/Pa love – and I can’t think of anything better they could give.

There are grandparents. There are great-grandparents. And there are grandparents who are great. I’m thankful to have all of the above in our lives. I hope you’ll take a moment this week to thank God for those people who’ve modeled His unconditional love in your life. I hope a few of those people who come to mind are grandparents.

The Unexamined Life and All

Posted: July 16, 2010 
Filed under: Deana, Denton Family, Grandparents, Jeff, Pictures, Spiritual
Tagged: , , , , ,
Comments: 3 Comments


3 Responses to “Grandparents Are GREAT!”
  1. amelia says:

    i found a miss spell

  2. Carroll says:

    Thanks Jeff for the comments about Mother I still miss her every day.

  3. admin says:

    Miss Amelia –
    I don’t think you are qualified to ever correct someone else’s spelling. 🙂
    Plus…you should really make sure you use correct punctuation when correcting my spelling. AND misspell is one word.
    I still love you lots!

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