Little Peeper

Thirty two years ago my life was changed forever. Our daughter Elizabeth Grace Wilhelm was born. It seems like yesterday – she was like a rosebud wrapped in a blanket. 6 bs. 10 oz. & 18″ long. So tiny. So pink. So beautiful.

Elizabeth Grace was too big a name for such a tiny little girl – almost at once she became Bess and because of her big blue eyes I often called her Peeper. She stole my heart and I was immediately wrapped securely around her tiny little finger. Speaking for all daddies of daughters – it’s a place we love to be!

Bess has been trying to “get big” her whole it seems. As a toddler she wanted to be as big as older brother Tyson and for a while at about age 10 or 12 she might have been a half-inch taller (although there seems to be significant debate concerning that assertion). At age 3 she became a big sister to baby brother Blake and assumed the role with confidence. A favorite family photo is one of her holding baby Blake while she is really still a baby herself.

Bess then...

Always the peace-maker and diplomat of the family. She has made the boys be better brothers by her very existence. She is the heart and soul of our family. Her beauty, like her mother’s, comes from deep within – she makes everyone she encounters better for having known her. She is her mother’s daughter!

And she’s fun and funny! Laughter has always been held in high regard in our family and she has provided much of it through the years. She’s almost as funny as I am.

She was a determined student and athlete. Although she was smaller than most of her classmates she never “took a backseat” to anyone in her class. Playing basketball when you’re 5′-1″ takes guts (sorry Bess – I know that you’re really 5′-2″). She graduated at the top of her high school class and went on to win scholarships to the University of Wisconsin where she graduated with a double major.

She’s now a wife and mother of two and that is without doubt her greatest accomplishment. Her daughter and son are reflections of the love that she and Travis share. Their faith, their love, their hope for the future is wrapped up in those two wonderful little creatures. Amazing!

...and now.

So there you have it. She is big now. Big life. Big dreams. Big hope. Big love.

But today she’s still my little girl. My Little Peeper. And I hope she never gets “too big” for that.

Peace,

Denis

P.S. Peeper, I’m glad you’re my Peeper, Happy Birthday! – Love, Dad

Peanut

Seven years ago my granddaughter was born. I didn’t know then that one tiny little creature could possess such transformative powers. But then I became a grandparent for the first time. And although my life had been blessed up to that point, nothing could compare to the joy I have experienced as a grandfather. Charlise was born in Florida; she was a month early and weighed only 3-1/2 lbs. Deb had made a quick trip to Florida shortly after her birth but I couldn’t get away from work obligations as quickly. We had planned to travel after the baby was born, so we went back to Florida together near what should have been her birth date. By this time she was nearly a month old. I will always remember “meeting” her for the first time.

When we arrived at their house my daughter-in-law was at the door. She greeted me with the most beautiful words that I have ever heard: “Would you like to hold your granddaughter?” My granddaughter! She was so tiny. So beautiful. So precious. She was my Peanut! And I was her grandfather. Her granddad. Her grandpa. That memory is permanently imbedded into my psyche. I was forever changed.

Of course in time I became Pawpaw, Charlise’s word for Grandpa, and it has stuck. I love being a grandfather no matter what the name. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that Charlise is now seven years old. And I love her big girl ways. She’s all about school and friends and clothes and the latest movies and fads. All things 7 year-old girls love!

But there are times when she’s still my Little Peanut. Sometimes when she spends the night she’ll still crawl up on my lap and watch one of her favorite movies – one that she’s seen so many times she has memorized most of the dialog. We eat popcorn and laugh at the same lines over and over. There’s great comfort in the familiarity of it all.

And on those special nights sometimes I remember that day seven years ago when I held her for the first time and I fall in love all over again…

Happy Birthday Peanut!

Love,

Pawpaw

Boys Will Be Boys…

Well maybe it’s true that “boys will be boys” but it’s also true that boys will become men. And as I prepare to celebrate my grandson Noah’s first birthday this weekend, I can’t help but wonder what kind of man he’ll be someday. Certainly he’ll be strong and kind and generous like his Daddy and smart and loving and faith-filled like his Mommy.

Noah already has a distinct personality. He’s happy. He’s curious. He’s affectionate. He’s fearless. And he is single-minded in his determination (he gets what he wants through sheer brut force, when flashing those big blue eyes fails – which is rare). He looks up to his big sister who will no doubt someday have to physically look up to him. But Anna is clearly in charge and Noah seeks her approval in all things. This will likely be a life-long goal.

"Do it again, Pawpaw!"

He’s a Momma’s boy but he’s Daddy shadow. He loves to hang on his Nana but Pawpaw can make him giggle the loudest. He likes to play “rough and tumble” but he still likes to cuddle. He’s just a sweet boy. And I suspect that he will be a sweetheart of a man one day, too.

He’s blessed with loving, caring parents, a sister that adores him, and doting grandparents. Some people might say he’s a lucky boy, but we’re the lucky ones. We get to take part in the life of this beautiful gift from God who fills our days with so much joy.

I pray that he always knows how much he is loved. And I hope that all his dreams come true.

Noah, Here’s a little video I made just for you. ~ Love, Pawpaw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zhI-UZOWSQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Travis

Today is my son-in-law Travis’s birthday. He’s a gem.

Not only is Travis a good husband and father, but he is a good man. And I love him, too. The way that he adores and treats Bess; the way he loves and protects Anna and Noah; the way he remembers to thank God for his blessings each day; makes me realize that I have the best son-in-law in the world.

Travis is always the first to step up and help out, regardless of the need. He brings tireless energy and fun to even the most mundane tasks. He is selfless and is totally committed to his family (I’m lucky to count myself among them). He is a devoted husband, father, son, and friend. He teaches Anna and Noah each day by his example, and I am thankful for his  love, patience, and gentleness toward them.

On the less admirable side: it turns out that Travis and I have a lot in common (which I think is funny; he might find it frightening) – bad puns, lame jokes, (some would say) annoying habits, the ‘need’ to be right about EVERYTHING, attention deficit disorder, laughing too loud at most times, innapropriate (again subjective) comments, and the lack of a brain filter – (it’s okay to think it but you shouldn’t always say it).

Anna, Bess, Travis, and Noah

Travis,

You are exactly the kind of husband I want for my daughter and you are exactly the kind of father I want for my grandchildren. Plus you are my friend and my son-in-law AND in that order. I can’t imagine life without you and all of the blessings that you have brought to our family. 

Happy Birthday!

The older I get, something, something…

I turned a year older this week – 56! The number doesn’t really bother me but the statistics do. So as with most unpleasantness, I choose to ignore the statisticians. I’ve been told that men my age are prone to heart disease, prostate cancer, midlife crisis, beer bellies, bald heads, erectile dysfunction, and host of other maladies that Zymbalta or some other wonder drug can cure but with frequent, painful and serious side effects. Oh joy!

The truth is that I feel pretty good most days. And (because I prefer to look at myself in the mirror without my bifocals on) I still look pretty good, too. So life goes on! Yes, the years tick by but I don’t care. I’ve decided to live life to the fullest (or as full as a 56 year-old can!) And currently I have no complaints.

I’m blessed; I know that I am. And upon reflection God (or my guardian angel) has had my back many times in this life of mine. I’m in love with my wife. I have three great kids and three beautiful grandkids. And we all have fun together. Especially the grandkids and me – which is what makes 56 tolerable and even fun most days. When I asked Anna, “Why am I such a lucky Pawpaw?” She exclaimed, “Because you’re MY Pawpaw!” How true; how true!

And of course turning a year older ALWAYS beats the alternative.

Birthday dinner with some of my favorite people

This week I’ve been able to celebrate my birthday on the beach in Florida and I’ve cherished every moment. Playing  in the sand or splashing in the pool with a 3-year old and an 8-month old makes a 56-year old forget (for a little while) about work, bills, the national debt, the likelihood that there won’t be social security when (or if) I retire, etc.,etc. The afternoon (obligatory) Margaritas help, too!

So bring on the birthday candles! I plan on running away to the beach again next year.  Fifty-seven be damned!

Peace,

Denis

I grow old, I grow old; I will wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled ~ T. S. Elliott

Birthday Party!

Three is BIG (sort of)!

Today is THE DAY. It’s Birthday Party Day! Granddaughter Anna turned 3 on Thursday and this afternoon she’s having HER BIG PARTY. Three year-old birthday parties are big stuff – there’ll be cake and ice cream and ‘themed’ decorations. Anna’s cousins and friends will be there as well as Aunt’s and Uncles and Grandparents. And in the middle of it all there will be this tiny three year-old wielding her “Birthday Power”. It’s mystical! When it’s your birthday you reign supreme – at least when you’re three! I’m not sure that she understands that this party is all for her. On Thursday when I said to her, “Happy Birthday Anna”, her response was, “Happy Birthday Pawpaw!” But I have a feeling by the end of the day she’ll have it figured out. After heavy doses of sugar and lots of presents and having her picture taken a thousand times, she’ll be likely be ‘channeling’ Shirley Temple in “The Little Princess”. Entitled but benevolent ~ gifted yet gracious.

Oh Anna, how did you get to be a big girl so fast? It seems like just yesterday I was holding you for the first time in the hospital and now you’re three! But even though three is BIG; as you yourself explained it, “Pawpaw I’m still a little girl and sometimes little girls like to be carried and sometimes they like to walk.” So I’m going to ‘carry you’ as long as you’ll let me. In my heart you will always be that tiny baby girl in my arms (just like your Mommy is) and I will cherish that memory forever. So go ahead and get BIG and be everything that you are meant to be. I’ll be standing here on the side-lines watching and trying to capture each precious moment as it passes by. You’ll ALWAYS be my girl and I’ll always be your Pawpaw.

So LET’S GET THE PARTY STARTED! And if sometime during your BIG DAY you need to be ‘carried’, I’ll be waiting here with open arms.

Happy Birthday!

Love,
Pawpaw