I have 10 grandkids:
Bo (b. 2001 – d. 2001)
I don’t remember all their birthdays, and I probably got some of them out of chronological order.
When I was growing up, my Grandpa Whiting (my dad’s dad) had 15 grandchildren among his 4 children (Mary had 4 kids, Rachel had 2 kids, and Bettie had 4 kids, then Dad and Mother had 4 between then, and Dad and Charmaine had another son between me and my first sister–convoluted marriages and remarriages; irrelevant for now). I wouldn’t recognize any of my cousins if I passed them on the street today.
My mother was an only child, so both Grandpa Mac (her dad) and Grandpa Walt (her step-father) only had us four grandchildren. Mother’s parents divorced when she was only 3, and her dad wasn’t much interested in having kids at all (and apparently was a bit of a philanderer along the way, as well). He insisted Mother call him Mac instead of Dad or any other term. Later, Grandma met Walter Wilfley, and Grandpa Walt was the grandfather I saw most often, but we were never close.
We saw Grandpa Mac once, maybe twice a year, when he would drive his mother, my Great-Grandma Dill from Tucson, AZ, up to Dunsmuir, CA for the summer — Tucson was just too hot for her in her elder years, and two of her other sons lived in Dunsmuir (one was the mayor there, but I forget if it was Uncle Claude or Uncle Gordon).
I actually remember seeing Grandpa Whiting once, when Dad drove me and Scott (my older brother) up to Santa Cruz to see them, in his little green Sprite. We stopped in Salinas to visit Uncle Chuck and Aunt Rachel. The few snippets I recall were sitting at the dining table and Grandma bringing dinner from the kitchen in big dishes that every one served themselves from; Scott and I sitting on the floor and Grandpa teaching us how to play Tiddly-Winks (a necessary skill every child should learn); waking early in the morning and seeing the grass sparkling with dew (and Dad explaining dew to me — I had never noticed such a thing before); and standing outside near the fence, behind which a ewe and ram were grazing, and Grandpa telling me not to stand too close as the ram would butt me.
On the trip back from Grandma and Grandpa Whiting’s, we stopped at a little cafe or diner in San Luis Obispo and dad got a glass of buttermilk. He let me have a sip, but I didn’t like it.
I do not remember if that trip was when Scott and I were still in Hollywood living with Mother, or if it was after Dad and Charmaine had separated and we were already living with Dad again.
No matter. This is about grandfathers.
There are pictures in the box of Grandpa Mac with Scott and me when we were very little, probably at the house on Waldron Ave. But I don’t remember that visit.
I remember when we lived in Hollywood with Mother, we three (her, me, and Scott) went to Grandpa Mac’s cabin up in the woods somewhere. I only vaguely remember that; mostly I remember my legs hurting from sitting on a grown-up dining table chair, and then Grandpa Mac bringing phone books so I could sit higher and put my feet up on the seat. I don’t recall if he was still with Doris then or already with Lucy.
But most of my Grandfather memories are really brief, and I don’t really think I bonded with any of my grandfather’s much.
I remember Grandpa Walt the most, since he and Grandma (my mother’s mother) lived there in Santa Barbara when Mother suddenly shipped us back to live with Dad, and Grandma was the secretary at the elementary school we ended up going to. At first it was Scott and me, plus Charmaine and her daughter, Vivian, living there, and Charmaine was pregnant with Chris. Charmaine moved out by summertime (she didn’t like how Dad treated us boys and didn’t want her child to be raised that way). So maybe that was the summer (’62) when we drove to see Dad’s parents.
But since Grandma and Grandpa were in town, we’d see them more regularly than any of the other grandparents. But even at that, they weren’t part of our everyday lives. We were basically isolated from all our relatives.
My Dad had 5 grandkids, but I don’t know if he met Scott’s son before he did or not — he would have been about 4 months old when my Dad died in ’87. My dad never EVER actually acknowledged any of his grandkids. Once at my sisters’ foster parents’ home, we (me and my 4 kids) were invited to Thanksgiving dinner, and Dad had been brought down from his foster home in Santa Maria. I don’t think he said a word to any of my kids.
And then, AFTER dinner (and after my brother and his wife had gone on to visit other friends for holiday dinner) I was informed that since we were driving home to Buellton, it was upon me to drive further to deliver Dad back to his foster home, another hour up the road. The entire 2 hour trip to Santa Maria was silent — he did not speak to me OR any of my four kids in the back seat the entire trip. My son tried to ask what was wrong with his legs, and he just sat there pretending not to hear. The only time he actually spoke was when it was time to get off the freeway and navigate to his house.
So, basically, I had very little know-how as for what a grandfather is supposed to be or do, and my dad wasn’t much of a grandfather at all to my kids (and actually he wasn’t much of a father, either, even though I was living in the house with him!).
Near as I could tell, a grandfather was someone related to the parents, but not real important. Other people had good relationships with their parents and grandparents — real relationships, not just being related to them by blood or marriage. I would have liked to have had that, but I never got it, so I never knew how it worked, or how it was “supposed” to work.
My grandkids are growing up with closer relationships with their other grandfathers, which is nice. I wish I had more contact with them, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, partly due to distance, and partly because I don’t have the financial means to actually DO anything with them, take them for outings, help provide for them, and just spend face time with them.
The reason I’m thinking of it now is that I heard that the grandfather of some of my grandkids was in the hospital. He’s stable now, but it made me think that my grandkids may one day lose one or more of their grandfathers. I gather they are somewhat close, since they are close to other parts of their mother’s family, and regularly get to see their various relatives. I was in junior high before I even knew I had cousins living in the same town, and I only figured that out because we went to the same junior high — I had no idea what cousins were for or how they could be considered “family”, since the only cousins I remembered lived up in Salinas, and then some other cousins came back from a mission trip to Africa, but the cousins in town had been there all along and I didn’t connect with them. (I blame a lot of that on the fact my parents were alcoholics, and alcoholics tend to become detached from relatives — detachment is one thing I learned how to do very well!)
Anyway, I am still not real clear on what a grandfather is “supposed” to do. None of mine were really accessible to me, but I want to be more accessible to my grandkids than my grandparents were to me. I know I’ve lived a lot and have a lot of skills to teach, but that may not be what they want or need.
So…. what is a grandfather to do?