My dad has a funny story he tells about when he was a little boy living over the hill from his Grandpa Eddie. Eddie, a widower since his mid-30s, made the best homemade doughnuts, fried and cakey like the ones we get at the local Lutheran church fundraiser ever year. I always buy an extra dozen or so thinking I’ll freeze them for special occasions, but they never make it to the freezer...
Anyway, my dad was about 6 or so and was sent over the hill to get a fresh batch of doughnuts his grandpa promised to his family. So off he marched on a well-worn path between the places. He probably lingered at his grandpa’s for a bit, where he was treated to one or two with milk for his good deed, and then he was off to meander back home, back over that hill, swinging the bag around his head, slapping it against his legs and maybe a rock or two for good measure because it’s fun, and then back and forth across his body until he arrived home with his treats: a dozen perfectly fresh doughnuts completely annihilated to nothing but crumbs.
I love this story because it gives me a little glimpse into my dad’s relationship with his grandpa on this place during a time in a kid's life when grandparents are particularly magical, freely sharing knowledge, laughter and pushup pops and in possession of a candy drawer within a child’s reach.
I also like the one where Dad and Uncle Wade ran over to Grandpa Eddie’s without declaring their intentions. They were likely missing for a little too long, and so when Grandpa Eddie saw their mother marching over the hill, well, he did what any grandpa would do. He calmly said, “You boys better get home now,” and sent them by shortcut, so the boys would successfully beat their mother home without crossing her path along the way.
Having grandparents nearby is a special gift that I’m so grateful we’re able to give our children. I had it in some form or another growing up myself and I hold the memories of after school snacks, homemade bubbles, Popsicles on the porch and card games of Skip-Bo and Uno in the whimsical and comforting parts of my memory box.
There was no one else who thought we were as special or funny or talented or charming. No one else as willing to have us sit around their kitchen tables and tell our long-winded stories, or clap as enthusiastically for our saxophone concerts, spontaneous interpretive dances and living room plays.
And no one else would actually stop the car when my little sister yelled that her imaginary friend, Becky, had her hand stuck in the door.
Oh, good grandparents are pretty special. Any day now I’m expecting one of my girls to pack her suitcase and head down the road, running away from her mean mom to someone who truly cares (and who will let her have a cookie for breakfast, lunch and supper.)
I think my little sister was around 3, Rosie’s age, when our Grandma Edie found her dragging the giant red Samsonite down the scoria road, running away from the "witch" that was her mother.
Grandparents, simultaneously saving our children while saving us.
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Babysitter falls through on Wednesdays? Call Nana. She’ll bring over a project and fold the laundry.
Want to join the curling club? Grandma and Papa will take the kids for that evening once a week.
Need reassurance that you’re not screwing them up? Papa will tell you they’re perfectly normal and then get after you for thinking otherwise.
Need someone to remind you that a little dirt won’t kill them? Just look to your own mother. She has proof. I mean, you’re still here.
No, I can’t imagine getting through parenthood without these wonderful humans, but more than that, it’s magical watching my daughters live out their grandparent sweet spot. I just wouldn’t trust them with the doughnuts quite yet.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at email@example.com.