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When you are loved by a child

Country Roads

Many men my age are grandfathers; even great-grandfathers. I have no biological grandchildren and I’m okay with that. There are always little ones who can use some grandfatherly love and indulging.

Cindy and I had two little grandnieces who we loved like grandchildren. Before Cindy passed away she loved on Charlotte and Meredith like a doting grandmother. Those two little charmers are now pre-teens. I still love them, of course, but their lives are much busier these days and I don’t get to see them often.

When I married Julie I inherited her two grandchildren and in the six years that have followed three more have been added. Three of them live in northwest Iowa and the other two in southern Wisconsin.

On a recent weekend we drove to Wisconsin where both families were gathered and spent time with all five of the grandchildren. And their parents, of course.

Though I am not an official grandpa I have acquired some grandfatherly skills including spoiling kids. Prior to a visit I shop for some inexpensive and totally frivolous gifts — one for each child. A little frivolity is good for their souls. And for mine.

Upon arrival one or more of the children will usually ask, “What did you bring us, Arvid?”

That’s when I bring out a large bag and present each child with his or her own gift. This time I brought them merchandise which bore the images of Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol puppies and Mr. Incredible. All five seemed pleased.

The next 24 hours were filled with laughter, tears and chaos; except when they were sleeping, of course.

Lunch and dinner were much noisier than meals at Julie’s and my home. At dinner Julie’s daughter asked each person to identify the thing they most enjoyed that day. Two of the children said their most enjoyable part of the day was when Grandma and Arvid arrived. It was good to see that they weren’t all swayed by my cheap frivolous gifts.

We celebrated three August birthdays while we were with the family. The joy a child experiences when tearing the wrapping off a birthday gift reminded me of birthday celebrations when I was a kid. Legos and electronic toys dominated the gifts given at the celebration.

I told the kids that when I was their age we didn’t have Legos; we had Tinker Toys. Their father had to explain what Tinker Toys are. A nice little reality check.

Julie challenged the four oldest grandchildren to a squirt-gun battle. All five water warriors were drenched when the battle was done. I suspect that 50 years from now four middle aged adults will fondly recall when they and Grandma soaked each other in their aunt’s backyard.

The five grandchildren are ages 10, 8, 6, 5 and 2½. Because of the coronavirus we hadn’t spent time with the grandkids since early January and the child who had changed the most over that time was the 2½ year old.

This sweet little gal is now a chatter-box. I don’t deal well with babies but when little ones start talking I’m fine. We chatted a lot during our visit but the highlight of our chats occurred a short time before we left the family gathering.

Out of the blue this sweet child said, “I love you, Arvid.” With my heart melting I assured her that I love her, too. I know kids that age are little parrots and she was probably just repeating something her parents had told her. It was still sweet.

Earlier in the day I told her that I used to have a little brown-eyed girl who loved to talk.

So it was an hour or two later we said our good-byes and headed for La Crosse where we spent time with my now adult brown-eyed daughter. She still likes to talk and we did a lot of that. In fact, she teaches inter-personal communication at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse. At its core, that is talking.

With all that’s going on in our world these days spending a weekend with our children and grandchildren reminded me that life is good when you are loved by your family. Especially when you are loved by a chatty little two-year-old.

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