For this week’s week of gratitude, I couldn’t think which member of my family I’m most grateful to – and for! But as much as I love every member of my family and I’m thankful to them all for one thing or another, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to my amazing late grandfather.
Goodness, where do I start with my grandfatheIt’ssell I think I can begin by saying that he was a real character. He was one of those people who would make you laugh with the things he said and did – problem was he was not trying to be humorous! There was many a time that a sneaky snigger was turned into a cough when he caught sight of us.
As strange as this may sound, I always knew that my grandfather was my grandfather before I knew he was my mum’s dad! I just thought it was some really bizarre coincidence that he happened to be her father as well as my grandfather. I was probably pushing three, and at that age I really didn’t know how these things worked!
I always describe him as a fearless, no-nonsense old army man. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and wouldn’t put up with any rubbish from anyone. This was a man who wasn’t afraid to put a stroppy teen in their place or tell a snooty, up -themselves person exactly where to go! And should you have the misfortune to ask for advice, he would tell it to you like how it was – and he didn’t mince his words either! Well you asked!
Quirks aside, Grandad really was the nicest, kindest, most generous human being ever. When he gave, he gave from the heart, whether it was time, money or his efforts to help others. And it was helping others that Grandad was known for. Most people would get fed-up with the phone ringing endlessly or constant knocks on the door with people needing help, advice, favours etc. But Grandad was always ready and happy to help – especially as it meant that he could dole out his own brand of tough love. And still the people kept coming!
Helping people wasn’t just because of his good heart. I believe it also helped fill the void after my nanna passed away when the focus of his life became his family and close friends, the church, and helping others. Well that and his social life! At an age where most people would be slowing down, grandad was always out and about – sometimes even coming home at two in the morning! My friends would laugh at my octogenarian grandfather who was a bigger raver than I am!
It’s been eight years since we lost him and there really isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel that loss and miss his presence. It’s impossible to sum up everything about grandad in one post. My grandfather may not have been perfect and faultless. I can’t pretend that he never got things wrong. But I’m so thankful that God made him my grandfather. I’m also thankful to my grandfather for making me the person I am today. The things I do, the way I behave, the way I treat others… Its all because of him. From the time I was a mini-human, he played his part in making sure that I grew up to be a decent person. Whether I am or not probably isn’t for me to say, but I know I’m a better person because of him. Admittedly my ditziness has nothing to do with him, and even though I’m just a fraction of a fraction of the person that he was, I hope as I get older I will become more like him.
By now most people will have heard of Kenny Harmon, the grandfather from Oklahoma who makes a mean hamburger, and is now affectionately known as Papaw. He made headlines around the world after a photo posted on social media of him tucking into a hamburger went viral. OK, so there’s nothing remarkable about a photo of a man eating a hamburger – but the story behind it is!
THE STORY SO FAR…
The doting grandad had invited his six grandchildren over for dinner, and set about creating a hamburger meal for them, complete with twelve – that’s right, twelve – hamburgers! However come dinnertime, five of them were a no-show. The only grandchild who did turn up – Kelsey Harmon – took a snap of Papaw as he tucked into his dinner and posted it to her Twitter account, explaining that dinner for eight had become dinner for two. Then before you could ask for more burger sauce, the post totally blew up on social media with thousands of people commenting.
THE PUBLIC HAVE SPOKEN!
A lot of people commented that the look of disappointment etched on Papaw’s face made them a little teary, especially when they heard about how much effort he’d gone to. Many agreed that they wanted Papaw to be their grandad too. Others wanted to know what had happened to the remaining burgers – and rightly so! A few sad cases declared that Papaw couldn’t be a very good grandfather if his grandkids didn’t want to spend time with him, while the odd couple of lost causes made death threats against the kids who didn’t turn up. Seriously people, get a life!
Just about everyone had an opinion regarding hamburgergate although the response to Papaw’s photo was generally very good. And one thing this photo succeeded in doing was make us think about our own grandparents and the role we played – or for those lucky ones, still continue to play – in their lives. And it certainly made me think about mine.
OUR ROLE MODELS
When it comes to grandparents, Mr. D. and I consider ourselves to be extremely blessed. Our grandparents were exactly what you would expect grandparents to be and served as excellent role models, not just to us kids, but to many other people who also looked up to them. We were adored by our grandparents who spoilt us rotten but were wise enough to know when to stop. And in an age where marriages collapse faster than an undercooked chocolate fondant, our grandfathers were devoted to their wives – quite simply they couldn’t live without them. If Mr. D. and I could have just half of what they had, we’re on our way to a very successful marriage.
Our grandparents may no longer still be with us but they are still the people we aspire to be like. They played a massive role in our upbringing and helped shape us into the people we are today. It saddens us that they didn’t live long enough to see us marry and guide us through our married life.
BUT WE WEREN’T PERFECT…
But I’m sorry to say that although Mr. D. and I had the perfect grandparents, we weren’t always the perfect grandkids. As we went from sweet kids to rebellious teens, we swapped sleepovers at our grandparents for raucous nights out with our friends, followed by all night swotting before exams at uni, before getting started in our chosen careers. So as we got older, even though our grandparents were always in our thoughts, we didn’t always visit or call as often as we should have. It was never intentional but it’s something that fills me with shame to this day.
WHY WE WERE MOVED BY PAPAW
Papaw’s story is both heartwarming and inspiring because it illustrated that in a world where people don’t get enough quality family time, there are still people who make an effort to get their familes together. In an age where the family unit isn’t as cohesive as it once was, there are still grandparents out there who want to play an active role in their grandkids lives. And although some people have passed judgement on the absentee grandchildren, I know just how easy it is to let the demands of real life get in the easy of things we really ought to do. And even though its been a zillion years since I was a teenager, I remember putting off visits to my own grandfather to go and join in with my friends’ crazy antics.
Its not that teenagers and young adults don’t love their grandparents of course. Its just that at that age, we often forget that the time we have with them is limited; we think that they’ll be around forever and that we’ll never see a time when they’re not around. At least that’s how it was for me. I think Papaw’s story has reminded us to make every second count when it comes to our loved ones.
WE LOVE OUR GRANDPARENTS…
Most of us really do the very best we can for our grandparents. Where I grew up in Northwest London, I saw even the roughest, toughest kids turn into big softies when it came to their grandparents and they couldn’t do enough for them. And even after their grandparents pass away, they’re never forgotten with their grandchildren marking birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.
…BUT SADLY SOME ARE FORGOTTEN
I’m glad that Papaw’s story had a positive outcome but it also made me feel sad because I thought of the grandparents who are not made to feel loved or valued – and believe me I’ve come across plenty of them. Many elderly people I know talk about their huge families – complete with grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren – with pride. But these are the same people who struggle with the simplest of tasks as they go about their daily lives, depending on the kindness of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and even strangers rather than burden their children and grandchildren. In fact I know of people who usually see their grandchildren when they turn up demanding a handout!
I can’t help but feel a little angry at situations like this and marvel at peoples carelessness and lack of common sense. Surely if your family is bigger than the average village, than the responsibility of looking after grandma or grandpa should be a doddle, shouldn’t it? Well apparently not! I may not have called in as often as I could have but whenever Grandad needed help with anything, one of us was always there.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT
When my grandfather passed away, I regretted that I didn’t spend enough time with him. It was only after his death I realised just how much he lived for his grandchildren and how every moment with us brought him so much happiness. But as a few people told me, no matter how much you did for your parents and grandparents, no matter how much time you spent with them even if it was every waking moment, it would NEVER be enough. And grandparents understand that we have things we need to do in life and we can’t always be there and nor would they want to stand in our way. As long as you show that you care, and that you love and value them, that makes them happy. So instead of feeling guilty, we should treasure the time we did get to spend together, know that we did the best we could and take comfort from those memories.
If there’s anything we can take away from Papaw’s story, it’s that awesome grandparents never stop giving, no matter how old their grandkids get. And despite a few exceptions, grandchildren never stop being loving – they just get busy! Modern life is frantic but we should do the very best we can to find even just a little time to let our grandparents know what they mean to us.
The Harmon family’s story did get a happy ending in that Kenny Harmon was reunited with all six of his grandchildren a week later for a special buffet lunch. And I did wonder just how many of those who wanted Papaw to be their adopted grandfather actually made the effort with their own grandparents. Well it seems that the other good thing about this story is that it actually made people reach out to their own grandparents immediately rather than putting off contact to another day.
Go Papaw… and grandparents everywhere!