I remember when I was a kid, before my parents were comfortable letting us stay at home alone by ourselves, my brother and I would spend our summer days with my Grandma and Grandpa P while my parents worked. My grandfather loved making wine, and it was fun to see all the bees get drunk and stuck in the juice as it was pressed out. My grandmother was constantly pushing food on my brother and I – not that two growing boys really needed encouragement to eat, but still. I remember my brother and I riding our bikes up and down the industrial road that ran behind their house, looking for washers and other “treasure” scattered along the road.
I remember spending a week or so every summer at my Grandma and Grandpa G’s cottage on Saginaw Bay, off Lake Huron. Both of them loved to play card games like cribbage and hand and foot, so we learned to play. They would frequently have a puzzle going in the sunroom, and I remember helping both my parents and grandparents piece it together. My grandfather loved to play golf, but I remember he liked falling asleep to TV-golf even more. My brother and I would ride our bikes around the point where they had their house, and I remember by the time they sold the cottage there were many more houses there than when they first moved in. I remember fishing off their dock and their pontoon boat, and I remember even catching a couple.
I thought that was how everyone grew up.
My mom’s mom died when I was in high school. My dad’s dad in 2003. Grandma G and Grandpa P died this year, in February and June, respectively. Grandpa P died within a week of my wife’s grandfather, so I took two consecutive Fridays off to attend the funerals and spend time with my parents. When I explained to my team why I needed the time off (and on such short notice), they were very sympathetic. What really struck me in talking with them was the number of people who said they didn’t know their grandparents like I knew mine. Several of their grandparents died when they were young, or they just didn’t see them that often growing up, they said. It’s so cool you got to know yours that well, they said.
I had no idea how lucky I was. But I won’t soon forget.