September 15, 2014
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A grandpa is just a book away

To the Editor:

“Once upon a time” … writing about how one spent his/her summer vacation was a common assignment for youngsters returning to school after a 10-week hiatus. I can’t say whether or not this tradition has been lost, but some folks do have vacations worthy of writing about – me for example. OK, I’m not a kid and there is no need to fret about receiving a grade from a teacher, but my summer deserves reflection.
On one hand, this soon-to-be-read summer’s tale is personal. On the other, many parents and grandparents can probably relate. Either way, a little cogitation is a good thing from time to time. I would like to refer to this piece as a ‘stump speech’ for grandparenting. You’ll understand as we move along.
Shel Silverstein wrote a wonderful story about a boy and his loyal friend, a tree. In simple, yet poignant, terms, it describes the intricacies of love, devotion, wisdom and perspective. When my children were little, I read it to them often. While they seemed to enjoy it – for me it struck a different chord. Stuff like that happens when you become a parent. Now, close to 20 years later, it looks as though I’ll get to read “The Giving Tree” once again.
In a few weeks I’ll be heading to North Carolina to visit my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. I don’t get to see them all that much so the two or three mini-vacations a year are precious.
Becoming a grandfather a few months ago has filled me with a number of emotions. A little fear (boy am I getting old), much excitement (amazing – a grandfather), happiness (I get to visit again) and so on. Despite the protestations of his parents (Nicole and Kevin), spoiling children like baby Luca is something grandparents do on occasion. We’ve already bought him a stroller, clothes, certificates, etc., etc. – but my favorite gifts happen to be books. That’s where Shel Silverstein comes in.
I really enjoyed it when my kids were between the ages of 2 and 10. Sure, their birth, teen years and adulthood have been wonderful, but there is something special about the sense of awe, curiosity and honesty young children possess. Watching them gaze at all of those Disney flicks is a joy. Helping to create worlds of wonder as you share a book or two is a present always treasured. Those days of yesteryear will not be forgotten and now I’ll get to do it again for a bit. I’ve learned much since then in fact, Bob Dylan’s words, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” often come to mind. Luca is about to get a jumpstart on some good reading.
Eventually, Luca will wind up calling me Grandpa. As he becomes more aware of the world, our relationship will evolve. I’m hoping that he’ll hear good things about me. I’m also hoping that he’ll listen to my stories and learn a lesson or two. It’s funny, when you come to think about it; Luca is learning new things each day and so am I. Becoming a good grandfather is at the top of my list.
“The Giving Tree” is as much an adult’s book as a kid’s. It helps to explain without explaining a journey. I’m looking forward to seeing Luca and his family. He’s not ready for this poem yet – but maybe 58 years from now he’ll peruse these lines while sitting on a tree stump.

A Journey

Some of it’s silly,
much of it’s not.
A lot of it’s brains,
a portion is heart.
Wanting to be alone and also a part –
confusing yes – confusing not.
Living a paradox, yet seeking the truth,
searching for heaven, but often uncouth.
Life is such an ironic mixture,
often so transient – and still wanting fixture.
Knowing that losses will lead to wins,
‘The Journey is better than the inn.”
And those wrinkles on a timeworn face
are often the lines that lead to grace.
So dear friend, heed me not,
for where one stops, others may start.
Search your soul and always strive
to meet again after a long summer’s drive.


I’ll see you soon Luca. Always remember that Grandpa is but a book away.

Robert Haughtaling
East Greenwich


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