Opinion Columns & Blogs

Being ‘Pop Pop’ is an important job

I’ve been into the “grandfather” thing for three years now, having gotten a late start. I was 66 when Harmon Brown was born and my grandfather was 66 when I was born. He lived to be 86 and died in his sleep, which is not a bad way to go at 86.

Harmon Brown lives up a path from “Pop Pop’s” and comes over at least every other day or whenever his mother, who has had enough “love,” texts me and starts him at the top of the “trail” which ends up in my backyard. Pretty good situation, if you get along with the daughter and her husband.

By the time I was three I had probably seen my grandfather only five times, and then only periodically until he passed away. Harmon has spent many hours with me but I have no illusions. If I can get 10 quality years in, I’ll be satisfied. I’m no psychologist but, it seems to me if there’s been any guidance in the house, most children’s ways of looking at things are formed fairly early.

Back in the ‘80s when the divorce rate seemed to skyrocket and I must say, it’s holding its own today, the saying was, “It’s not the quantity of time you spend with your child, it’s the quality.” It was a welcomed relief to those who saw their children on weekends or whenever visitation allowed, knowing they could parent as well as those who lived in the same house as the mother/father and still have some influence on their child.

Those issues are there for those who wish to discuss them. I only know that the two grandfathers I saw briefly from time to time as a child had a profound effect on how I viewed the world then and still do. My mother and father kept the grandparents alive long after they were gone with stories about their lives that involved good times and bad.

As I think about it now, it may have been that sense of extended family, of purpose, identity, and a belief that you were part of something bigger than yourself that made you want to succeed, to not disappoint in some way, those who had come before, or the family.

When we were growing up it was important to attend a family function with the grandparents and have your parents be able to brag on you as their child. This may sound trite, but I think a sense of extended family goes a long way toward keeping young people from drifting into undesirable or risky behavior. It may be part of that “still, small voice” one hears when temptation calls.

Close proximity has its down side however, as I am privy to each and every “calamity” facing the family up the trail. Today is no exception as the grandson has a virus which includes activity coming out both ends. The family doesn’t do well when “calamity” strikes and, like a dog or cat, either gets mean or finds a place to hide until the issue is resolved.

So I get this text from my daughter saying, “Don’t come over, Harmon Brown has had an “accident” in the yard.” And, “Make sure you don’t let the dog out.” Georgia is not in the “March Madness” tournament so I understood perfectly well what that meant. The dog thinks that anything that smells bad is worth rolling in, and always with a smile on her face that says she’s found a temporary paradise. Wouldn’t it be great if that’s all it took to make us happy?

And so I would say to all us grandparents out there, believe you are important, regardless of the time you are able to spend with your grandchildren or how far away they may be. They will continue to remember who you were, what you stood for and the lessons you imparted, even as you may slowly forget. Age has a way of seeing that happen.

And as the years go by the memory of something as simple as skimming a rock across a pond on a summer day or the look he saw in your eye when you talked about his grandmother may become that cherished piece of you your grandchild takes into the future. Being a grandparent is a great place to be.

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.