When I was in high school I worked a couple of different jobs. I refereed soccer games (a career that ended in controversy in a championship game between 12-year-olds), washed car lots, and mowed lawns. In fact, my brother and I had our own lawn mowing business. We were pretty successful, too. Had a couple of clients. Some pretty high profile, even. I’m not saying I mowed Lou Ferrigno’s yard, but I’m also not saying that either.
OK, our only clients were my Grandparent’s.
It was something we did for a year or two. During that time I spent many hours mowing under a hot summer sun, doing my best to make the yard look nice and tidy. And, outside of a minor incident where I put oil in the wrong part of the lawn mower and came dangerously close to blowing the thing up, I think we did a reasonably good job.
As the years have gone by, the hours spent mowing have now blurred together to form one big memory. Kind of like that month where you wore a poncho to high school every day because you thought it looked cool. That said, there is one moment, one vivid memory, that will always be distinguishable from the rest. It was something my Grandmother did.
It was one of those perfect summer days. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was almost certainly feasible to cook a filet mignon on the sidewalk. I had just begun mowing when out of the house walked my Grandmother. As she drew closer, it was apparent she wanted to talk, so I turned the mower off and waited to hear what she had to say. The topic of conversation? Sunscreen. She wanted to know if I had any on.
It was a fair question. After all, I did have my shirt off – for obvious reasons, among them being the need to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D. And also it was high school and maybe some girls would drive by and appreciate the view. I smiled, and proceeded to tell her I didn’t have any. She frowned – you know, the frown only a grandmother can give – but I assured her I would be okay and she scampered off and I continued on mowing, not thinking anything of it.
About 30 minutes later I saw a mini-van pull into the driveway. It was my Grandmother. I must have missed her leave, but again, I didn’t think anything of it. She was always on the go. Moments later, however, she walked out of the front door, stopped me in my tracks, and handed me two tubes of sunscreen – a big one to keep at home, and a smaller one to keep in the car. They were also both SPF 75. Catching some rays on the surface of the sun was now in play.
I like this story because it not only describes my Grandmother perfectly, but I think it also describes grandparents in general. They’ll make you smile. Embarrass you. Or do both. Like that time I was at a movie with my Granddad and it was at that precise moment when it’s dead quiet in between previews and he says, at a volume that would suggest he’s trying to talk over a pack of sea lions, “Remind me not to see that one.”
Sometimes you live in a different city than your grandparents and you aren’t able to see them as much as you’d like. Yes, this is a bummer, but it makes the time you are able to spend together even better. All of a sudden casual cards turn into the final table at the World Series of Poker, and late night news around an ancient TV in a cramped living room is like watching a live performance of baby penguins playing a magical rendition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. I can vouch for this. While I haven’t seen the baby penguins – at least, not in person – I did grow up with Grandparent’s that lived in a different city than me. And I can tell you the times we’ve shared together have seemed to be experienced in HD.
For example, every time my family travels to my Grandparent’s place on my Mother’s side, my Grandmother makes us tacos. They aren’t anything fancy, but they are easily the best tacos I have ever had. I know, tacos are delicious all the time, especially when enjoyed at taco night, but these tacos are magical. They really are. It’s like donuts and pizza got together and came up with a magical formula to create the best taco that ever was, and somehow my Grandmother got ahold of the recipe. But it’s probably not because they are a higher quality than other tacos, but instead because they are made by my Grandmother, at my Grandparent’s place.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have known all four of my Grandparent’s, two of whom are still with us today. When you’re younger, it’s easy to take those relationships for granted. You think they’ll always be there and you don’t cherish the time you have together. But as you grow older, those memories of your grandparents and the moments you were able to share together grow stronger, as you realize how precious those times were – even if it was something as simple as watching the news, or playing cards, or a trip to McDonald’s in their minivan.
If you’re lucky enough to have your grandparents around today, try to not take that for granted. Go visit. Call more. And when you do, ask them questions and listen. Soak up all the wisdom and stories you can, because you won’t always have that opportunity and you’ll end up regretting it if you don’t. That, and who else is going to give you sunscreen when you want to tan on the sun?