One of the thrills of getting old is getting to be a Grandpa. Everything that all the experienced Grands have told me about this gig has proven to be true. The giggles are endless. The hugs are the best. The joys flood my soul. And the fascination of riding horsey wears off in about 10 minutes and can only be overcome with Ibuprofen and rest.

I was on an elevator today when an older gentleman stepped in wearing a T-shirt that said:

“Greatest Grandpa in the World”

You know how it goes. No one on an elevator hardly ever speaks. It’s like a rule. You avoid making eye contact. Don’t talk. Just stand your ground and get off at your floor.

But I couldn’t let the T-shirt pass. This guy was probably 6’4” and well built for a guy with white whiskers on his chin. But, I figured, what the heck. Us Grandpas have to hang together. So, I broke the cloak of silence and spoke up.

“That T-shirt can’t be right.”

My wife elbowed me in the rib cage. Her look said, “What are you doing? That guy is gonna beat you like a rug. Besides, we’re on an elevator.”

He stared me down from under the low brim of his baseball cap. And without any expression he said, “How’s that?”

His deep voice matched his size. For a moment I thought that Earl Ray Jones was on the elevator. The guy leaning against the wall across from me was looking for the escape hatch.

“It can’t be true. My grandkids tell me I’m the Greatest Grandpa in the World. That title is already taken.”

It took a moment. I could feel 8 people close around me hoping for Jesus to return. He finally grinned.

“Well, I reckon there’s room for two of us in this world.”

There was a collective sigh of relief in the elevator. The guy by the buttons relaxed and snickered. My wife loosened her grip on my arm and the blood started to flow again to my hand.

I have played more in the last 4 years than I have played in the last 40. Chase. Hide and Seek. Peek-a-Boo. And my all time favorite. Wrestling. This is a game where Grandpa lays on the floor and allows a 2 year old and 4 year old to use their knees as instruments of death and to use his stomach as a trampoline. It’s quite exhilarating. And by the way, for Christmas I would like some protective gear. Maybe a suit of armor. And the extra-large bottle of Ibuprofen, please.

If you’re not aware of your limitations yet, being Grandpa will remind you of them. I don’t bend well. I pull stuff when I run. And I don’t get up off the floor with much spring. It’s more like an old cow. The two back legs get under me first and lift. Then the two front legs (arms) unfold and lift. Once halfway up, my hands rest on my bent knees until I’m sure the room’s not going to spin any more. Then I stand.

Grandpas are not just for fun, though. We’re teachers. We expose the little darlings to new discoveries. Nothing dangerous. Lord knows, nothing that would spoil their supper. Just regular stuff that they haven’t had time to discover for themselves. The feel of rain on their faces. The sound of a Bard Owl in the dark. What happens when they pull my finger. They need someone to guide them and teach them the finer things of life. Things that make their mothers say, “Ghee! Thanks Papa.”

I haven’t yet passed along all the things I know, but I’m working on it. Like, the sound you can make in the bathtub if you cup your hand under one arm pit and flap like a chicken wing. It takes real skill. The bathroom floor doesn’t get too wet. And the giggles are golden. You can thank me later.

Bath and bedtime. That means that the day is winding down. The wrestling is over. Cuddles are ahead. And there are books to read. The one about the Duck who lost one of her ducklings is getting worn and tattered on the corners. They know every picture. They know every line. They can’t read a word but they know exactly when the page needs to be turned.

I tried to move ahead one night and skip a page. I’m thinking, “How sharp can a two year old be?” He called me on it. “No, Oh Ha.” He hasn’t quite got my name straightened out yet. So, I go back.

I’ve read this book exactly 4,879 times with both grandkids, and every time the lost duckling is in the boat by the dock on the pond. He is never behind the haystack or in the hollow log. He’s in the boat. It never changes. But we read it. And we look for him. Until we find him. And I’ll hold on to it for the next grandkid.

“Can we read it again, Grandpa? Just one more time?” she says.

“Sure.” I’m easy.

He says, “Can we wessel?” My Ibuprofen is just kicking in.

“No silly. We’ve got a duckling to find.”

I’ll take my T-shirt in black or navy blue. Thank you.

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