"Those schoolgirl days, of telling tales and biting nails are gone,
But in my mind,
I know they will still live on and on,
But how do you thank someone, who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
It isn't easy, but I'll try,
If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high,
To Sir, with Love
The time has come,
For closing books and long last looks must end,
And as I leave,
I know that I am leaving my best friend,
A friend who taught me right from wrong,
And weak from strong,
That's a lot to learn,
What, what can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start,
But I, would rather you let me give my heart,
To Sir, with Love"
This song speaks to me on so many levels. Of course, Sidney Poitier was great, but the movie was made in 1967. When Lulu sang her "thank you" song for "Sir," I was just a kid. (Now it's a "Glee" song...who knew?)
But substitute the word "Sir" with "Grandpa" and the song could be sung for my father-in-law by my kids -
Edward (known as Eddie) and Susan. And my gratitude is unending.
When Susan was 12 weeks old, my husband quit work to stay home with her - and two years later her brother - until she was in second grade. By then, Eddie was in kindergarten. When it came time for Mac to return to the workforce, we would both be working and we dreaded keeping them in day care and school for 10 hours a day. My father-in-law, Edward, was a neurosurgeon - an amazing brain surgeon and healer. At age 69, he still worked 60+ hours a week. But it was time to retire, and his colleagues and assistants would ask "What are you going to do to keep busy when you retire?" And he would answer: "I'm going to open a day-care." Of course, no-one believed him until he said "I'm going to open a day-care...for my grand kids."
The way it actually happened is fuzzy, but all I remember is that when Mac went back to work, Grandpa Ed stepped in. He would show up at our house at 6a.m. every day. We had horses and chickens and he would normally help me feed and water them and then I would shower while he unloaded the dishwasher - without being asked. I would leave for work at 7a.m. and he would wake Susan and Eddie, feed them breakfast, help them dress and take them to school.
Summer vacations, Holiday break, teacher in-service days (the bane of working parents), summer vacations, all of it - he was there. Grandpa Ed would take the kids to his house, the grocery store, the beach. He'd take them to summer camp or soccer practice or friend's houses. If they were sick, he'd stay home with them and if they needed to be picked up from school, he'd do that too. Sure, if the kids were really sick, my husband Mac or I would stay home with them. But for garden variety illnesses, Grandpa Ed would take them and nurse them. He rarely missed a soccer game, a school event or a birthday party. Grandpa Ed was Super Nanny.
While Mac was growing up, his dad was practicing medicine. But Mac reports that he never felt that his dad neglected him. Ed never missed a game or important event. He was the varsity football team physician for every home game for three years. He came home for dinner and then went back to work or he came home, tucked his kids into bed and then went back. Mac's sister said she never felt anything but support from him. So it wasn't out of guilt that Ed stepped in - it was out of love.
Both Susan and Eddie grew up with three parents. They had the endless love and undying devotion of their Grandpa. Whatever problems kids have with their parents - and all kids do - another generation acts as a buffer. Unconditional love is very powerful.
Super Nanny. Grandpa Extraordinaire. An angel and a blessing. How can you express thanks for the devotion and dedication of that man? Now that Eddie and Susan are almost grown, we don't need Grandpa Ed like we did. And like all good things, our time together has changed. Grandpa is over 80 now, showing the effects of age. His cancer diagnosis in 2009 was devastating to Susan and Eddie, and as he grows older they are experiencing the loss of a parent in all but name. It is heart-breaking, but it is life. How do you say "thank you?" Words are not enough.