Grandfathers

So often I find myself feeling just a little jealous of other people who knew and had relationships with their grandfathers.  Whether they have one or both in their life, they always seem so lucky to me.  They get one (or two) more person(s) to dote on them, send them cards, and tell them they are loved.  

I didn’t know either of my grandfathers.  My Grandpa Anderson died on New Year’s Eve 1968, and my Nanu Aiello was gone shortly after that.  And I was born in 1970, so I just missed them both.

I was thinking about this on my cab ride home from work tonight.  Funny how being at the mercy of someone else’s crazy driving gets you thinking about things like this.

My sister and I never knew our grandfathers, and now, her daughters will not know theirs.

My brother-in-law’s dad died some years before he met my sister.  His mom remarried and is still with him today, so the girls do have a step-grandpa.  And, of course, our dad died in 2006.

All throughout our lives, my sister and I have only had pictures and memories from our parents and grandmothers to help us understand what our grandfathers were like.  We never heard their voices or their laughs, or got to hear them say our names.  It was like something was missing.  

My cousin’s Grandpa lived through most of her childhood and through her teen years.  He was the only grandfatherly figure in my life.  I remember when I was very young– probably about 6 or 7 at the most– I was talking to him at a family gathering, and I distinctly remember asking him, “Will you be my Grandpa?” 

I remember him responding, “Why sure, Ricky, I would love to be your Grandpa, but I can only be your pretend Grandpa, because you will always have your real Grandpas.  Can I be your pretend Grandpa?”  

And I remember saying, “Sure!” and he shook my tiny hand, and the deal was sealed.

Years later when he passed away, his wife came to me and reminded me of that story.  “He was so honored that you asked him that,” she said.  “He never forgot it.  He loved you kids (my sister and I) as if you were his grandkids, just as I do.” She asked if I would be pallbearer at his funeral — the first time I had ever done such a thing.  Of course, I said yes.

Now with my nieces just about to turn three months old, I think of how unfortunate it is that they will never know their grandfathers.  They will have lots of pictures to show them what they looked like, and lots of stories from their parents, uncles and grandmas; and at least on our side of the family, they will even have family movies and a few audio recordings of my dad’s voice so they can know what he moved and sounded like.   But that won’t take the place of actually having a grandfather in their lives.  

So they have loving and doting grandmothers, two crazy uncles that are as crazy for them as they are themselves (yes, I am one of those uncles), and a step-grandpa who is related only by marriage, but undoubtedly loved completely.  I’d say they’re two very lucky little tykes.  

The girls are going to Grandma’s house for the first time this weekend, and of course we are all excited. 

I’ve always said that our family is small, but it’s mighty.  Some things, I guess, never do change.

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