My oldest daughter, Peggy, is a brilliant woman. After earning her Master’s Degree in advertising from the University of Illinois, she walked away from a promising career as a successful account executive at Foote, Cone and Belding to devote full time to mothering four beautiful daughters.
And advising her lawyer husband, Dave, on how to market legal services.
She visited us this week, and, as always, engaged us in the most enjoyable and affable conversation.
We got on the topic of grandchildren, and she told us a touching story about the funeral of the father of a friend of hers. The eulogist asked all of the deceased’s grandchildren to stand and be recognized. Nine young men and women stood.
Now, said the speaker, would any of you who believed that you were your grandfather’s favorite, please raise your hand. Instantly all nine of them raised their hands.
Our nineteen grandchildren range in age from thirty-four to fourteen. They are scattered from Savannah, Georgia to Los Angeles California. At last count, they had accumulated seventeen degrees from a dozen universities.
I got them all together for Thanksgiving dinner up until a few years ago. It was always a real kick to see them as adults chatting affably with cousins they knew from childhood.
There was inevitable talk of the Pookie room, at the foot of the back stairs in our house on Park Lake Road. It was a special hide away for preschoolers, crammed with toys and crayons. Adults were not welcome.
And they remember the year Puppa rented a bus which hauled the whole clan to a touch football game, a barbeque and other adventures.
Family gatherings now focus on weddings. We have had three so far, with another in the offing for October. Polly and I revel in the fuss they make over their octogenarian ancestors. They always make us feel very special and very specially loved.
Polly is in charge of the birthday cards and the Christmas presents. The burden of buying gifts, even for the inveterate shopper to whom I am married, has finally dictated that we content ourselves with sharing financial largess at Christmas and on birthdays.
Having some vivid memories of the economic pinch associated with being a young adult, I am not surprised to hear genuine gratitude when the checks are distributed.
Like her sainted mother, Peggy is never shy about expressing her views about my role as Paterfamilias.
And, of course, as always, she got me to thinking.
What exactly should be the relationship between an 87 year old grandfather and his twenty-something and thirty-something grandchildren?
I had to concede that few, if any of my grandchildren and/or great grandchildren, will ever accede to being my favorite. Indeed, among my siblings and myself, the idea that any of us would be favored by our parents was unthinkable.
In fact we used to joke that our mother must have stood before her bedroom mirror and recited the words from Snow White: mirror, mirror on the wall…
Mother was meticulously even handed. Indeed, she was ‘the fairest of them all.’ She loved all five of us exactly the same. Period.
Which is not to say that I do not see each and every one of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as special and specially wonderful.
They all astound me, amaze me, and amuse me. They are fun to be around, interesting to talk to, and full of challenging ideas and exciting experiences.
Yes, Peggy, I should call them once in a while. Just to talk. Just to say hello. Just to let them know that I think about them and care about them.
Even if I can’t remember all the birthdays.