“It’s why you lift them weights”

“Hey fellas, this is what you work all off season for, this is why you lift them weights,” said New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells to his linemen in the Superbowl. The message, a bit inarticulate no doubt, but true to its core is that working towards a goal, and reaching it is what life is all about.

We reached our own “Superbowl” this summer. Sue and I waited a long time to become grandparents, I was 60 when Jayne arrived, followed a couple of years later by Norah, and now just a week ago by our latest granddaughter Morgan. Yes, it was worth the wait.

For the last two months, aside from a 10-day break for me when I came back alone from Pittsburgh to do build a few things and get ready for a fun-filled invasion, Jayne and Norah have been with us. For Sue, it’s been non-stop since the last week in May with this precocious pair.

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These three little girls are the reason “we lift them weights.” There is nothing like an extended vacation (though the farthest we went was Thermopolis) with those you love. Grandchildren are a link to the future, and something rare in this life, a visible, visceral reminder of what working towards a goal can accomplish.

As a teacher, I can now see some of the fruits of my labor coming to fruition in the productive lives and accomplishments of my students. That’s not an easy thing to see when you’re dug in deep, fighting the evils of the mundane to reach kids who often don’t want to be reached, but in the end, it’s been a worthwhile career.

The hard part is seeing it come to an end. Yes, I miss my days in the classroom and on the field, but not enough to venture back into the present-day maelstrom that exists. When it comes to grandchildren, that’s an entirely different story.

Jayne enters kindergarten next month. It will be a transition. We’ll miss those 24-hour days where entertaining and interacting with these bright little girls takes the forefront of our days. But as every parent knows, or at least should now, nothing is forever. There are stages of life in a child’s development, none better or worse than the other, (unless you count their teenage years) that follow naturally. Enjoying each of these steps is part of the process. When you’ve seen it in your own children, you relish it in the next generation.

Grandparents have the unique advantage of doing it again with their children’s children. How anyone could not want to spend every precious moment they could with them as they walk through childhood is a mystery to me.

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Kids are only little for a very short while. There is a saying I picked up somewhere along the way, I’m not sure if it’s mine or I heard it somewhere else, but it describes the process perfectly. When I look at my son and daughter, I often hear it in my head, “I miss the boy, but I like the man.” In essence, that’s the walk of life. Enjoy the stages, they won’t last long, but the next one is likely to be even better, even more memorable, and even more enjoyable than the last.

Back in February, just before we returned from another trip to Pittsburgh, we were driving along Highway 30, one of the main lifelines of the Steel City with then four-year-old Jayne in the rear seat of the van. Out of the blue, she began reading billboards to us and asking what they meant.

Magically, (well not so magically, if you want your child to read, read to them) she had begun to read. I’d like to claim it was on her own, but her grandmother, my wife, the eternal kindergarten teacher, has been reading three or four children’s books to the girls every day since they were less than a year old. The work paid off (it’s why you lift them weights once again)

Jayne is now a voracious reader on her own, and we’ve lost the ability to communicate by spelling out a word with the kids present since she catches what we’re trying to hide from them most of the time.

Now the two-month romp is approaching its finale. We have a few more days with Adam, Staci, and the girls before they return to Pennsylvania. In the same frame of mind, tiny Morgan Marion Tucker is almost a week old, and the process begins once again with another tiny baby, who will all too soon be riding her bike too fast, snagging spelling words out of the air, and hopefully spending long days with her grandparents.

United Airlines doesn’t have to worry, Sue and I have booked over 60 round-trip flights to Pittsburgh since 2017, and I’m working on another one for September. Expensive? Yes, but I’ve driven it a couple of times and we’ll take the “Friendly Skies” over 1800 miles of one-way windshield time. Being able to afford this luxury is why I worked full-time as a teacher, coach, and later an IT director while running a summertime construction company and freelance writing on an epic scale. In my world, it’s the prime example of why I lifted them weights since, without work, there would be no reward waiting to arrive.

In the interim, until we continue to spoil the girls in September, we have hay to harvest, water to chase, football, volleyball, and cross country to cover, more columns to write, more freelance outdoor articles to publish, and more stages of life to enjoy, and maybe a few fish to catch, and a trip or two with just Sue and I.

We try to not say goodbye to the girls, but rather see you soon. There is a finality hidden in a goodbye that I don’t like. The warhorses I battled as a coach in my younger years are all grandfathers themselves now and we all admit we’ve gotten soft when it comes to the grandkids. It’s yet another stage, besides in the immortal words of Charlie Brown, “Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.”

“It’s why we lift them weights.”

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