Family First

MY WIFE AND I ARE blessed with 11 grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. They range in age from six to 18. Amazingly, as we get older, they’ve gotten older, too. We’re fortunate that all of our family is no more than an hour and a quarter’s drive away.

How I miss the days when they were delighted to play with Pa. We went to parks, to playgrounds, to see koi in a pond. We made sandcastles, dug for sand crabs, dunked each other in the ocean. The times on Cape Cod were the best, as were the occasional sleepovers.

Then they started going to school and our time was limited. As they grow older, their activities and friends take priority. Vacations on the Cape are limited because they need to be home for sports. But there’s good news, too.

Over the years, we’ve attended concerts and award ceremonies. Twice, I was invited to one granddaughter’s school when they held a celebration and breakfast for veteran parents and grandparents. I was surprised to see I wasn’t the oldest in attendance.

In normal times, we see our grandchildren regularly, only now it’s at soccer, baseball, basketball, track and lacrosse games. They’re all good athletes, a skill they surely didn’t get from me. I played Little League as a boy, with the less-than-enviable record of never getting a hit—not even getting my bat to touch the ball. My children weren’t into sports, either. One of my sons spent his time in the outfield picking dandelions.

I’m glad to see the parents attending their children’s games. Neither of my parents ever saw me play Little League. My relatives also weren’t into sports. One Christmas, all I wanted was a basketball. Seemed like a simple request. But when I opened the package, it was a beachball printed to look like a basketball. My mother insisted I take it to the park. Oh, the embarrassment. The wind carried it away—into a pricker bush. I was saved.

All these sports activities are costly for parents. There are fees for the teams, buying uniforms and equipment, and—in some cases—private lessons to hone their children’s skills. I never had that expense. Maybe a future college scholarship will offset these outlays. Or not.

There’s a cost to grandparents, as well. “Pa, would you like to buy… for my team’s fundraiser?” That’s not counting the Girl Scout cookies. I decided to donate the 15 boxes I just bought from granddaughter No. 3. No sense risking the 15 pounds I lost being quarantined prior to my recent surgery.

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