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  • Baptist Beacon

The grandparent factor

by Tim Patterson

PLYMOUTH, MI – My earliest memories of him come when I was three or four years old. In the hazy corners of my mind I can see him sitting alone in the kitchen in the wee hours of morning while the sun was still hiding its face. There on the surface of the yellow topped and chrome legged table sits the morning paper, cup, saucer, butter dish, a pan of fresh baked biscuits, and a can of black strap molasses syrup.

Paw Paw is doing what he has done almost every morning for sixty plus years. He rises at 4:30 am, waits for the world to open its eyes, and makes sure his chickens herald their announcements on time. Of course, when the sun went to bed he did as well. I have found that in my present stage of life, his sleep patterns and habits have become mine with the exception that I do not “saucer” my coffee. I still prefer drinking from a favorite cup.

As I peered around the corner from the hallway, I could see his dark silhouette as he mixed the right proportions of butter and syrup to make his plate of “bzero” as he called it. He said it would put hair on your chest, and from my vantage point in my bathroom mirror every morning, he was right.

I shuffled my way to the table and crawled up on his knee for a taste of his concoction and a little early morning comfort. The smell of Old Spice was still strong from his morning shave, as I lay my head on his red plaid flannel shirt. Even today my olfactory senses respond to that unique spicy odor, I see Paw Paw dressed in his brightly colored flannel shirts with a pack of Lucky Strikes peering out of his breast pocket, a freshly ironed pair of khaki pants and his ever present brown felt fedora.

In his early years he was a master carpenter and builder, and just after the war was responsible for building a good portion of the homes in our little hamlet. Now, he was a groundskeeper for the county hospital, and a rose gardener of the highest caliber. Apparently, his love for roses was genetically passed on to me.

As I grew in years, Paw Paw and I were very close. Everyone who knew him said not only did I have his facial features, but my mannerism and gate mimicked his.

When I entered those tumultuous teen years he watched with amazement. It was the Sixties and everything was being turned upside-down. He never really understood all that was happening in our society or me, but his love and guidance never faltered.

One day he came by after work, and said he wanted to take me for a haircut. Now, at this time my hair was well over my ears and then some, and had the curly-kinky consistency of a steel wool pad on a caffeine overdose. I consented to the barber’s chair with specific instructions to the barber to only trim the edges. The barber was true to his word, but Paw Paw didn’t think he was getting his money's worth so he had the barber keep cutting until he could see “white side-walls”.

Now if my mom or dad had been there and tried to get me in that coiffeur’s coffin I would have rebelled, but because it was Paw Paw, how could I say no? Whatever he said or whatever he did was right. Because he was never wrong? No. Because he was Paw Paw.

God’s Word teaches us that a parent’s role does not diminish when the children marry and leave home. In fact, the real fun begins. When grandchildren come along, grandparents are given the wonderful opportunity to continue their impact on the lives of their children and children’s children.

Phil Waldrep, in his book, The Grandparent Factor, answers the question: “Can grandparents really make a difference?”

“Absolutely! Children today are looking for sincerity. They are regularly exposed to hype and phony behavior on television, at school, and sadly, in many of their homes. They are looking for, in fact, are desperate for authentic love. That’s what grandparents can give them. Kids see through all the marketing efforts to sell them $70 jeans and $100 shoes. When they see the real thing—the warmth of the grandparent’s love—they zero in on it like a radar beam.”

Grandparents have the opportunity to touch and influence their grandchildren for their good and God’s glory like no other person on the face of the earth. It is usually not until you ARE grandparents that you understand what a wonderful and precious gift children truly are. You also have invaluable experience that can only come through time tested success and failures.

If you are a grandparent, seize the opportunity to make an eternal difference in the lives of those little ones. Love them. Lead them. Spoil them with the special treats they might not get at home, and yes, give them candy between meals. Let them crawl in your lap, and love them while they are young. Later on when they really need direction and influence then the memory of a warm lap, a fragrant smell, and early mornings in the kitchen with biscuit and “bzurp” will remind them that you really do love them, and know what is best. How can they say no to that?

"Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers." (Proverbs 17:6 KJV)



Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.


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