Think about your grandparents. What images enter your mind? What feelings come over you?
I imagine those feelings might run the gamut of emotions.
My PapPap (Dad’s father) died when I was 3, but my earliest memory of any kind was fishing with him on the bank of the Allegheny River. He is more mythic in my mind than anything.
My Nana, PapPap’s wife, instilled in me my love of food and cooking. Some of my fondest memories are of the whole family around her table, loaded down with an amazing, made from scratch, meal.
My Grandpa (Mom’s father) was a ruddy, jovial mix of cluelessness and opinions. He gave me my first taste of beer. And he never, ever got the punchlines of my jokes. In my early adult years I heard whispers of a darker side to Grandpa. Of bigotry and intolerance.
My Grandma was the sweet one who I loved being around just to make her laugh. I’ll never forget driving with her, my sister and mom on trips to the mall. We laughed till we cried and enjoyed ice cream cones on the way home.
The one thing they had in common is that they all believed in me. I felt like they made a big deal about my accomplishments. I even now sense PapPap’s pride in me, though I don’t remember his voice. I have a misty memory of walking home with him, crossing the New Ken bridge, as he held my hand with one hand and a string of fish with the other.
This is what grandparents do. They take pride in their grandkids and convey worth. Of course, there are some who were not so kind or gracious. Dealing with their own demons, they took it out on everybody. Maybe you. It might have even been so bad that it has taken you a long time to escape that negative influence on your life. I will devote a future piece to the idea that even bad people can shape our destiny in good ways. Stay tuned.
But for now, let me offer a few thoughts on how most grandparents positively help shape our futures and our callings. I’ve been doing this destiny coaching for years now and one of my biggest surprises is just how many folks I’ve worked with call out Pops or Nana as a prime influencer.
Here’s what they’ve told me.
“Grandma provided a safe place not just for me but for anyone, regardless of who they were. She taught me what inclusion looked and felt like. I’ve tried to emulate that open-armed inclusiveness in my own life.”
“Gramps was the hardest working man I’ve ever known. He showed me what it meant to give my life to something bigger than myself.”
“Grandma and Grandpa were fun! Their home was always full of people enjoying each other and life. They taught me the importance of hospitality.”
“There is no one in the world I would rather be like than Pops. I have decided to follow him, not just in his career path but in his life outlook.”
“Grandma taught me what it meant to live by faith. She taught me how to pray.”
“Grandpa imparted to me his love of God’s creation. When I walk outside and sense the wonder of it all, I know I learned that from him.”
You see, grandparents do more than simply keep us supplied with snickerdoodles and old memories. They see potential in us and build upon it. Maybe freed from the typical Mom and Dad-like worries over health, education and friends, they simply take delight in us. Having lived the majority of their lives, they begin to revel in ours. And maybe, considering their own past choices, they help us take more risks and hold back less.
Grandparents shape destinies.
As Papa to Isabella, Anya, Jude and Henry that is precisely what I want to do in their lives.
And next time we bump into each other, I’ll show you some pictures!