“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
I will be spending a motherless Mother’s Day Sunday for the first time. My mother passed away in January just shy of her 95th birthday. She departed this world exactly as she occupied it — quietly, with dignity and kindness and expressing more concern about being a burden to her four children than she was with her own health and needs.
Mom will be with me in spirit Sunday, and if I start feeling sorry for myself I’ll hear her voice lovingly reminding me to ‘stop crying and moping around or else she’ll give me something to really cry about’.
The other mother in my life is spending a week near Boulder, CO with our 2-year-old grandson while young Owen’s mom and dad are spending a well-deserved week in Hawaii. I don’t know who was more excited about this week — Owen or his grandmother Wendy. It’s not at all surprising that Wendy is turning out to be a great grandmother. I, on the other hand, found the experience somewhat daunting at first. Were my own kids really ever that small and vulnerable? Am I holding the child correctly? Do all kids really poop this much?
Luckily for me, my son Adam and my daughter-in-law Heather had the foresight to provide me with a little gem of a book when Owen was born called How to be the Perfect
Grandfather by Bryna Nelson Paston. Let’s side aside for now the troubling fact that the author of a book on being a perfect grandfather was written by a grandmother; good advice is good advice no matter where it comes from.
The Perfect Grandfather book includes a number of amusing grandfather-related anecdotes as well as lots of tips that ought to be self-evident but weren’t — at least not to me — such as “Don’t take you grandson fishing if he hates fishing”, and “Show up for everything and always bring plenty of napkins”, and “Pretend you don’t know who your grandchild is on Halloween.”
It also includes a number grandfather-related quotes from eminent social scientists such as Woody Allen (“I’m very proud of my grandfather’s gold watch. On his death bed, he sold it to me”), and Steven Wright (“When I was little, my grandfather made me stand in a closet for five minutes without moving. He said it was elevator practice.”)
The book includes things that no grandfather should attempt to do with his grandchild such as shopping, trying out new hairdos, or anything related to make-up. A good grandpa should always have an answer to questions such as: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? And: Why does a pound of feathers weigh the same as a pound of peanut butter? And: Why isn’t there such a thing as a grandmother’s clock?
But my favorite part the book is a reminder that the secret to having a positive impact on your grandchild is to hand out to them love and kindness like it was last year’s Halloween candy and do everything you can to demonstrate to them respect, trust, truth, courage, wisdom, generosity and humility. In that spirit, I’ll embrace this upcoming Saturday. And I won’t actually be alone since I’ve been in charge of the dog and all five chickens for the week, which sort of makes me a mother to all of them. I hope they appreciate that when I have them all join me in the house for a Mother’s Day lunch together on Sunday.
My grandfather book’s final piece of advice to us new grandfathers is keep calm, laugh a lot, make memories, don’t take yourself too seriously, and always keep grandma’s cell phone number on your speed dial. Happy Mother’s day to anyone out there who is a mother, has had a mother or has played the role of a mother to someone else.
Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.