We can be referred to as Nanna, Bubba, Granny, Pap-Pap or Pop. In any case, our names always include something that suggests the "grand" in grandparenting. Whether we are on our first or our 12th grandchild, we know our status represents one of life's best rewards.
After years of diapering, disciplining and dealing with our own children, we can now apply our hard-won wisdom to the next generation, giving them our seasoned love as they give to us their open hearts and innocent minds.
One grandchild asks me why I have so many brown spots on my hands. Another asks why I don't have gray hair like the grandmothers in story books, cartoons or family series on TV. The young ones are shocked and awed by the huge glow of candles on my birthday cake, even as they give me the help I need to blow out all the flames.
Grandkids find it difficult to believe that we were once as young and active as their own parents, or that their own parents were once our tiny, helpless babies. To them, time is still mysterious and slow moving, while we know that the years race by, turning events into memories in the blink of an eye.
When we were the parents, we had to be the watchdogs, guarding our children's diets, friendships, homework and finances. But a Granny or a Gramps can be forgiven for handing out an extra doughnut or slipping a few dollars into a grandkid's empty pocket.
A parent must intervene and put to rest the inevitable sibling wars over toys, TV channels or time on the iPad. But grandparents know that these battles are part of the bonding process, and that they will help foster the family love the kids will take into adulthood.
Grandparents are not dismayed by accidents and spills. We know milk can be wiped off a table, cherry Kool-Aid can be taken out of a rug and crumbs in a couch can be vacuumed away. Even if the grandkids do make a mess, the bottom line is that they eventually will go home. We can give them our total approval and acceptance knowing that the buck does not stop with us.
It's deja vu for us and fun for them when the grandchildren ask to play with the old toys we have saved from the days when their own parents were just our little kids. Together we drag out the Matchbox cars, the castle, the farm, the GI Joes and the green army men. As we watch the grandkids construct their play, we catch flashes of features we recognize -- a dimpled smile, a hearty laugh, a look of surprise or defeat that we witnessed a generation ago.
Grandkids help us to rediscover the wonder of it all -- looking for bugs among the leaves, scanning the sky for the big dipper or watching the snow pile up on the windows. In their company we can ignore the call to read the paper or listen to the news or worry about tomorrow. Like them, we can live in the eternal present, rejoicing in what is rather than bemoaning what was or will be.
The older we get, the more we can be glad we have children and grandchildren to "keep the end from being hard," as Robert Frost puts it in his poem "Provide, Provide." My mother's end days in a nursing home were brightened by visits from her great-grandchildren, who saw on the bed not a dying woman but the same special Bubba they had always known and loved.
Whenever we hold a new grandchild for the first time or measure a growing adolescent against our own shrinking frame, we learn through them to accept both stability and change. They will take whatever we have given them into the future, giving us sufficient hope for our own promised immortality.
Donna Lund is a writer and the author of a collection of essays titled "WOE to WIT to WISDOM" (firstname.lastname@example.org). She lives in Upper St. Clair. Tomorrow, by the way, is Grandparents Day.