Nine Years of Joy

Our Grandson Noah turns nine years-old today. Where does the time go? It seems like yesterday I held him in my arms for the first time. 

SelfieNoah has filled those nine years with love and joy, There are people who carry joy with them wherever they go. Noah has that gift. Any encounter with this joy-giver always makes me feel better; better about myself; better about life; better about this world. Noah has spirit. He has an amazing sense of adventure. He’s often the life of the party. He’s always looking for the good time; the big laugh; the happiness in every situation. He’s fun and funny. And he shares his boundless joy!

Noah is moving forward at record speed. He is growing in leaps and bounds. He seems to be in a hurry to get on with life; to learn more; play harder; face new challenges; enjoy new adventures; love more deeply. He is always looking forward to his next test; his next game; his next school year; his future. 

Noah and meStill, as he races toward that future, I know that he remembers to look back, too. For that, I am forever grateful. I hope when he looks back, he sees the love and security he has in being part of this family. I hope when he looks back, he sees that he has been nurtured and loved beyond measure. I hope when he looks back, he can take pride in his home; his school; his church; his community; his country. Those will be the building blocks of that future he seems so ready to take on.

Sometimes when I fear my future, I think of Noah and how he will conquer this world someday and make it a better place. Come to think of it, he already has. His kindness and joyfulness are much-needed antidotes for the sickness and sadness and corruption that I see in the news every day. When we are together, he and I, we share our stories – mine of boyhood memories of long ago; his of successes or challenges on the ball field or in the class room – we connect in way that is both physical and spiritual. Noah meets my every need, just by smiling at me; holding my hand; embracing me; telling me that he loves me.

Noah and NanaAs much as I need this beautiful boy,  I believe he needs me too. My love for him is unconditional. I’d  like to think that I love Noah the way that I hope God loves me. No proof of worthiness required. No test of loyalty needed. No apologies necessary.

Just boundless love and eternal joy.

Peace,

Denis 

P.S. Happy Birthday Noah Boy!

P.S.S. This is one of Noah’s favorite songs. 

 

 

Holding Noah’s Hand

My grandson Noah is a fierce competitor who likes to win. He’s the family’s UNO® champion and I really do try to beat him, but I just can’t. He plays soccer and basketball and baseball. And whether he’s on the field or the court, he gives it his all. He’s a good student, too. He works hard and gets all A’s. He’s quick-witted and loves to tell jokes. He’s thoughtful, inquisitive and he understands things beyond his years. He’s a human dynamo; always on the move; always ahead of the curve; always ready for the next adventure. I struggle to keep up with him. Most times I feel like he’s an adult in an eight- year old body.

And then he holds my hand.

He holds my hand when he feels uncertain about a new place or a new experience. He holds my hand when he feels frightened (although usually he’s fearless). He holds my hand when he meets people for the first time. He holds my hand and he’s a little boy again who needs his grandfather’s love and protection.

Noah meMore importantly, he holds my hand when I desperately need it to be held. I’m not sure if he knows it or senses it, but lately I need my hand held more than he needs me to hold his. He might be the toughest kid on the field or the court or the playground, but he still holds my old hand in his. He doesn’t seem to mind if anyone sees us walking hand and hand together. He takes my hand and makes me feel necessary and loved and blessed.

My Mom’s funeral was last week, and Noah was my shadow. He sat with me and held my hand and eased my pain. His great-grandmother was gone, and he was heartbroken, too. Yet he was more concerned with comforting me than being comforted himself.

Perhaps he is an adult in an eight-year old body. But all I really know is that he’s an eight-year old boy who brought Christ to me on the saddest of days by holding my hand.

Peace,

Denis

  

Carpooling, Chromebooks, Common Core and Other Confoundment.

This week we had two of our grandkids stay with us. Their parents were on a little get-away. We enjoy having the kiddos spend the night on occasion but full-time parental duty is a bit daunting. Don’t get me wrong. We had a great time and they are great kids but school and extracurriculars today are very different from when our children were students.

schoolCarpool drop-off and pick-up requires special training and following the RULES. You have to wait for your signal and be prepared to “REMAIN IN YOUR CAR” or “EXIT YOUR CAR” or “MOVE OUT OF THE WAY OLD MAN – YOU CAN KISS YOUR GRANDKIDS GOODBYE SOME OTHER TIME”. Those carpoolers don’t mess around. And I suppose giving someone “the finger” at a Catholic school is frowned upon. Live and learn…

A Chromebook (some kind of computer) is required for 5th graders. I don’t understand what happens with it, I just know that whatever it is can’t happen without it. And yes, I had return to school when it was left behind Wednesday morning. For the record: it was my fault. I asked my granddaughter is she needed her iPad thingy. Which she didn’t. What I should have asked was, “do you need your computer thingy in the pink case?”

I have no idea what Common Core is. Probably something that 5th graders do with their Chromebooks. I heard some Moms talking about it at the 2nd grader’s baseball game and pretended to understand. I think I had them totally fooled.

This week there was choir practice and a baseball game and Robotics. Each day was another adventure. We had homework and bath time and bedtime rituals. We shared lots of laughs at dinner as we talked about the school day. Bedtime prayers nearly broke my heart each night with their simple yet eloquent thanksgiving for life and love. Their little poochie slept snuggly between them. And we all fell fast asleep. Some of us were more tired than others.

Their Nana made their favorite foods for breakfast and dinner and I benefitted from the requests. Who doesn’t want to start a day with Red Velvet Pancakes? Lunches were packed with special snacks. I scored some of those, too.

It has been a fun week, but I’m not sorry that Mom and Dad are coming home to take over. I’m reminded once again that there is a time and place for everything and it’s time for me to go back to being a grandfather and to get out of the carpool lane.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

 

Laffy Taffy

Kids are inherently selfish. It doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them kids. When you’re small, your world is small. And what you have is yours – your toy, your bike, your candy. Often sharing is mandated. Children will be admonished to “share with your brother” or “share with your sister”. Usually the little miscreant will oblige but not always cheerfully. As parents, we try to remind our youngsters that sharing is ‘the right thing to do’.

But in a world full of selfish and self-centered adults, teaching kids to share seems a daunting task. ‘ME FIRST’ is the mantra of so many in our society that giving or sharing seems to be an antiquated idea. After all, how can I get ahead if I’m busy taking care of someone else? Why should I sacrifice any of my time, talent, or treasure to someone who hasn’t worked as hard as I have to achieve it?

In the United States the idea of the self-made man is iconic. Pulling one up by his (or her) own bootstraps is almost heroic. It is the quintessential American figure. But is any of us really able to do everything alone? Has no one else ever helped even the most successful (depending on what your definition of success might be) among us? I doubt it.

We all need one another. We all need to be helped from time to time. And we need to help others in return. Sharing is giving. Giving is helping.  So young parents, please keep reminding your kiddos. Make him share. Teach her to give. Model that same behavior.

laffy taffyI am encouraged because after school one day recently, my (almost) seven year-old grandson gave my wife a piece of Banana Laffy Taffy®.

Let me explain: In first grade if you’ve had a good week at school the teacher allows you to pick something from the candy jar. Noah loves candy but he also knows that his Nana loves Banana Laffy Taffy®.

So when it came time to choose, he chose unselfishly. He chose something for someone else. He ran excitedly up to her to present his treasure. He earned it. He deserved it. But he gave it up with love. And with tears brimming in her eyes she accepted his kindness.

I hope and pray that his small gesture is just the beginning of lifetime of sharing and giving to others. What an example he has given us. I remain humbled.

Peace,

Denis

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

 

 

 

Fledglings

This spring a cardinal made her nest in the hydrangea tree in our front yard. We’ve been on “bird watch” since I first discovered the nest with four tiny eggs. Momma bird would sit quietly on the nest until I got too close and then she would fly away chirping (actually squawking) until I moved away from her brood.

birdsA week or so ago the first egg hatched, followed by two more the following day. The fourth egg never hatched. I guess, such is nature. At first the three baby birds were just all eyes and beaks and fluff. Always with their necks outstretched, waiting for momma bird to deliver some sustenance. Momma bird would fly from rooftop to tree to ground and back and then do it all over again and again. She would pull worms from the ground and return to the nest only to fly away again in constant pursuit of food for her young.

birdYesterday as I was looking into the nest, two of the babies jumped out! Then on to a branch and then onto the ground. Momma cardinal became hysterical. The squawking and flapping and flying around was startling to say the least. It was as if she was sounding an alarm. And indeed she had. Soon daddy cardinal was on the scene. Both appeared to be searching for their timid youngsters who had taken shelter in the rose and holly bushes in our front garden. They were like tiny sentries on guard. Desperately struggling to protect their young from what might lie ahead. This morning the nest was empty save for the un-hatched egg. The fledglings have officially “flown the coop”.

All this nature-watching has made me keenly aware of how time marches on. We all were once fledglings who had to brave the unknown. Some of us might have jumped from the nest and others of us might have been nudged. Regardless we somehow found ourselves in unfamiliar terrain dealing with the unimaginable.

As a parent I remember feeling woefully unprepared when my son left for Air Force Basic Training. There was so much more that I needed to teach him! How could the little boy who wore Velcro® tennis shoes to kindergarten (because he hadn’t yet learned to tie his shoes) be prepared to defend our nation? When I walked my beautiful daughter down the aisle on her wedding day I couldn’t help but think of the little girl who I had seemingly held in my arms just days before. And when our youngest son left for University my heart ached with a sense of dread that I had become obsolete. Fledglings three!

And there I was, a daddy cardinal squawking and flapping my wings. Frantic and slightly hysterical. Perhaps more afraid of what was coming my way than what might lie ahead for my baby birds.

But time and experience have taught me that those bittersweet “fledgling moments” are just part of the journey. Life goes on. And usually gets better. My kids still need me. And while I don’t need to provide protection from the unknown, I am still called upon for sage advice from time to time.

Capture.PNGNow we have five grandchildren aged 12 to 1. Our beautiful baby Gwen turns one year old today. She’ll have her own “fledgling moments” soon enough as will her sisters and her cousins. I just hope I’m around to squawk and flap my wings as needed when the time comes.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

Full of Grace

Anna9Nine years ago the most wonderful thing happened. My granddaughter Anna entered this world and captured my heart. Nothing has ever been the same since.

Anna has an old soul. She has the gift (shared by few) of being able to walk into any room and sense whatever is needed by those around her. She gives herself completely. When she is with you nothing else matters to her except being in that moment. Whether she’s playing with friends or helping her little brother or just “hanging out” with her grandparents, she takes the time to listen and truly engage in the game or the activity or the conversation at hand. She is thoughtful, polite and loving.

Anna has a mighty spirit wrapped up in one tiny nine year-old body. She laughs big. She plays hard. She prays deeply. And she loves unconditionally. I am humbled by her kindness, amazed by her generosity and honored to be her grandfather.

I see my daughter in her love of laughter, her desire to excel in school and her need to be the family peacemaker. I see my son-in-law in her inquisitiveness and in her joy of learning new things. I see my wife in her deliberate approach to life; always stopping to “smell the roses” and never wanting to be hurried along. She shares her other grandmother’s artistic ability and love of nature. And me? Well she may have inherited some stubbornness and perhaps a talent for writing.

I believe that Anna will do great things in her life. Truth is, she already has. On more than one occasion she has afforded me a glimpse of heaven. And it’s a beautiful thing. You know, the name Anna means “full of grace”. I suppose nothing else really needs to be said.

Except happy birthday and I love you!

Pawpaw (Denis)

“Children’s children are the crown of the elderly” ~ Proverbs 17:6

 

Boy In A Hurry

Today is our grandson’s 6th birthday. Noah is always in a hurry! Whether he’s running through the backyard or cruising on his bicycle, or racing across the swimming pool or sliding into home, he is always “full speed ahead”!noah-me

That was even true on the day that he was born. It seems like it was yesterday that our daughter Bess was at her last prenatal appointment. While waiting to see the doctor she was pretty sure she had gone into labor. They examined her and sent her straight to the hospital at about 3:45 pm. Two hours later a nurse looked in on Bess and said she would be back in 30 minutes to check her progress. When the nurse returned to check, she lifted the sheet and said “And…we’re…having a baby!”

Just that quickly, Noah was born at 7:06 pm, September 20, 2010. He’s been in a hurry from the start.

I thank God for giving us a healthy boy who can run and run and run. I’m grateful that “he’s the fastest__________________________” (fill in the blank). He’s a dynamo who seems to move a little faster everyday. But some days I wish he would slow down. Sometimes I just need him to “put on the brakes”. I want him to climb on my lap. I want to hold him in my arms and kiss his sweet face. I want him to be “little” for just a little while longer. There are days when I feel desperate for Baby Noah. I want to tell him to please not be in such a hurry to grow up. To savor this time. To be patient. To hold on.

But today is not about me. Noah’s life is his own. He’s six today! And he’s in a hurry to run marathons and climb mountains and conquer this world and create beautiful moments and memories along the way.

I realize of course that I don’t need Noah to slow down as much as I need to catch up. And God willing, when I’m too old to run alongside him, I hope that I’ll still be able to cheer from the sidelines as he hurries past.

Happy Birthday Noah!

I love you,

(Pawpaw)

Denis

 

Kindergarten

This month our grandson Noah will begin kindergarten.

To me he seems wise beyond his years. He believes in God and prays often, albeit sometimes in a slightly selfish 5 year-old way (as do many adults that I know). He deeply cares about others, especially his big sister and his mommy and daddy. Noah’s interests are varied. He loves the outdoors. He plays baseball and soccer. He likes to swim. He likes to climb, jump and run. He also loves playing with Legos and Play-Doh, watching movies, playing board games. He has a very active imagination. He likes books but more than that, he loves hearing stories, especially if I tell him stories about when I was a boy (sometimes they’re even true). Noah loves music and loves to dance. And he laughs – huge belly laughs. He is fun and funny. We call him “Life’s-a-Party-Noah” for good reason. He is physically demonstrative and will gladly throw his arms around this old man and give me a huge kiss on the cheek. It doesn’t matter who may be watching. He loves me. And of course I love him!

Noah Kindergarten

Noah modeling his new school uniform

And so he begins a new chapter in his young life – Formal Education. From this day forward everything will be on his PERMANENT RECORD. I know that Noah will approach school with he same tenacity and aplomb that he tackles everything else. He’s a good team player and is easily coached so I suspect that the order and discipline required in school won’t be too challenging for him. Plus he loves to learn new things. And he’s kind. So he will be good to his classmates and teachers. And there can never be too much kindness in our world. Noah will surely do well with school.

But here’s the thing: Will school do well with Noah? Will his enthusiasm and joyful spirit be enhanced or stifled? Will his teachers expose him to new experiences and new ideas that fill his heart and stretch his mind or will he become bored and restless because of conformity and rote learning? Of most concern to this grandfather is whether or not his spirit will be allowed to soar. Noah has so much to offer and I’m convinced that he will change our world. He’s already changed mine.

I want the universe to open up for him in ways he can’t yet imagine. I want his achievements to be as boundless as his dreams. I want him to travel the world; read and study and explore; make a difference; discover his best self; love and be loved beyond measure. And I hope that someday he is blessed with a boy of his own who will fill his life with light and love.

I suppose that this is a lot to place on the small shoulders of a kindergartener. But hey, it’s Noah!

And I can always tell him a story about when I was in kindergarten…

Peace,

Denis

P.S. Noah, Always stay humble and kind…

“Let the children come to me”

garyLast week our newest granddaughter Gwendolyn Elizabeth was baptized. Our good friend Deacon Gary baptized her; as he has baptized our four other grandchildren. It was beautiful celebration of God’s love for us. I was reminded (once again) that Baptism isn’t just for the baby being Christened but for the entire family gathered to experience the sacrament. We all renewed our faith and promised to help Gwen in her spiritual journey. As Gary so eloquently pointed out, Gwen really had no idea what was happening to her but our love and support would give her a foundation on which to build a life-long relationship with God. So with parents and siblings and Godparents and grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, Gwen was welcomed into a new life in Christ. And we were all blessed.

bannerBaptism doesn’t end with the sacrament. This will be the beginning of Gwen’s life as a disciple of Christ. She was presented for Baptism but her parents and Godparents will bear the responsibility for her formation. We will all support their efforts in raising her as a Christian but ultimately she will have to choose to accept her faith as an adult.

But how often do I think about my responsibility to be a witness of Christ’s love? How often do I forget that we are all called to this in Baptism – to be Christ to one another?

As her grandfather I can model Christ’s love in the way in which I love and honor Gwen’s grandmother (my wife) and her parents and Godparents (my children) but most importantly it will be in the way that I will love her. Gwen’s journey in life is unknown at this time but my belief in Jesus’ saving grace is certain and it will sustain her forever; inasmuch as my love for her will never end.

Peace,

Denis

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Say a little prayer (or maybe a big one)…

Lately our grandson Noah has been having some tummy trouble. Nothing serious but when you’re five years-old a bad belly came be disconcerting (come to think of it, when you’re sixty it’s no fun either). Anyway, his pediatrician has prescribed some over-the-counter remedy which seems to be working. Hopefully soon he will be back to his usual life’s-a-party, happy-go lucky, free-spirited, never-say-die self.

But right now he’s scared. He’s afraid his belly will start hurting again. He’s afraid he won’t be able to play on his soccer team. He’s afraid he won’t be able to make it through an entire day of pre-school. He’s afraid to eat too much or not enough. And he WANTS MOMMY when his tummy hurts! Poor little guy. Poor little mommy.

NoahThis morning he didn’t think he could make it to school. He pleaded his case but Mom and Dad assured him that he would be okay. They offered him a favorite stuffed animal to take for “rest time” at pre-school (which is apparently a common practice for others in his class). The stuffed animal might offer some security and reminder of home but he refused it in a very adult manner: “No thank you Mommy, there are two reasons I don’t want to take my stuffed animal. First, I don’t want germs from other kids to get on it. And sometimes people play with their stuffed animals when it’s not resting time and our teacher doesn’t like that.” Apparently he knows his limitations.

What he did ask for: “Mommy, please pray to God that I’ll be okay today!” And later, “Daddy, please pray to God that I’ll be okay today!” His parents assured him that they pray for him everyday and all day and that certainly he would be prayed for today. Now there may have been a little bit of five year-old drama in that “please pray to God” plea but I prefer to think that Noah believes in the power of prayer or at least finds comfort in knowing that someone is asking God to help him. What Noah doesn’t realize is that he brought God to us today. His reminder that God is with us and will protect and help us in our time of need is the purest form of evangelization.

Of course now I’m praying, too.

Peace,

Denis