Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It’s great to be a grandfather

I will usually take time to talk about anything – politics, sports, movies – but I’d rather spend all day and night bragging about my 20-month-old granddaughter, Riley Claire. Everything else is insignificant in comparison, because, in the most profound terms, I know this: it’s great to be a grandfather!
I could make millions of dollars on a new workout-exercise DVD if I could only capture this child’s energy and the fruitless attempts on my part to match her perpetual motion. I’d call it “Chasing Riley” because it would accurately describe my grandparenting skills and reactions.
If only we, as occupants of this planet, made more of our decisions based on what is best for our grandchildren, instead of our (often) selfish interests, the world would be a better, more peaceful place. After all, who would want to place such burdens as hunger, war, hatred and poverty on innocent children?
On my “bucket list” is the desire to show Riley special places in this nation that she might not get to see in her lifetime. I’d love to have her experience the sight of the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, both oceans, the serenity of Crater Lake in Oregon and the historic areas of Boston and Washington, D.C. I took her aunt (my youngest daughter, Kelsey) on such a trip when she was 15, but I’d be approaching 70 in order to do that again. Since I’ve dedicated my remaining years to Riley’s welfare and happiness, I will do the best I can to fulfill that line item on my list.
So it was a treat to recently spend (Grand)Fathers Day with Riley and part of the activities included a visit to the Frisco home of my friends, Lei Zhang and Carl Clark.
Lei was born and raised in China and I hired her for my news staff a few years ago when I managed the Plano daily paper. Since that time, I have watched her grow and mature, earn her master’s degree from UNT, get married to a good man and become a loving, nurturing mother … twice (her oldest child, Charlie, is my godson). I don’t know if I can admit to being Lei’s “surrogate father” while her family remained in China, but I did my best.
Lei and Carl’s newest addition, Caroline, was born June 1 and there was an additional, special aspect to the event. Lei’s parents were able to be there to witness it, having made the arduous journey from the city of Jiaozuo in the Hunan province. Their home was not that close to the recent earthquake (although her sister lives in that province and was forced to spend several days in a tent because of aftershocks), but it took time, and some doing, to begin their journey to America.
Lei’s father speaks no English and what little Chinese I recognize is located on some dinner menu. Yet, when we met, I think we understood each other; we were in agreement that grandchildren are precious.
Which brings me to the photo you see with this offering. There is Xiaojun Zhang playing with Chuck Bloom’s granddaughter, as if she were his own. Almost immediately upon our arrival, this man, with only grandchildren in common, smiled and held out welcoming arms for Riley; she, of course, took to him like a fish to water. And it seemed so natural. They played together for many minutes with “cousin” Charlie and I kept hearing their laughter seeping through our “adult” conversation. He’d say something in Chinese and Riley would respond.
And there I sat, listening as one who took eight years of first-year Spanish – clueless in anything other than English.
As I watched them interact together, it gave me hope for Riley’s future – a man from China playing with a little girl from north of Houston – as if they were family.
Despite the difference in language and culture, the same message was sent loud and clear: it’s great to be a grandfather!

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