By Vincent DiBianca
When I was a little kid, my picture of "grandpop" was of a little old
guy with spectacles, stooped posture, a little paunch, a distinctive
limp and false teeth. My grandfather often brought a smile and a wink
with him, but he wasn’t particularly able to relate to me. I recall we
sometimes played checkers or cards; however, I don’t remember doing
anything special with him. We never went off exploring together (except
for an occasional movie). He seemed more interested in assigning me
chores (and imposing discipline) than teaching me values and how to
think. Grandpa was a part of my life, but he was actually more of a
babysitter than anything else.
proud to be vulnerable, he wasn’t really "accessible". He never really
knew me or dialogued with me to any extent. He didn’t serve as a
confidant, guide or mentor. We never had a heart-to-heart conversation,
and I never felt particularly safe or connected with him. Maybe this
was just our family. Maybe it was the times. Or perhaps it was both.
can tell you that being a granddad in 2007 for me is a very different
experience. Okay, so I wear glasses and fight having a paunch. Yet,
while my granddad in his 60s looked like he was 70, I’m 60 and look
like I’m in my 50’s (well, okay 591/2 — just wait ’til I’m done my
liposuction!). More importantly, I relate to my grandchildren
powerfully: I am full of life and have unconditional love for them, and
they with me. We are very physically active together and
extraordinarily involved. We have taken several journeys together—in
fact, we take some sort of adventure every time we’re together. We’ve
mastered Charades. We visit frequently. We talk often. I listen a lot.
We laugh even more. They teach me and I them. We play and play at the
game of life together. In fact, they’ve given me new meaning to
exploring and playing (even though we live 3,000 miles away from each
We are deeply connected.
am committed to building an exceptional relationship with my
grandkids—filled with joy, adventure, intimacy and safety. My children
support (and appreciate) this. In fact, my commitment to my
grandchildren has built an even stronger bond with my children and
their spouses. We all act according to this commitment. We will not let
miles limit or separate us. I hop on a coast-to-coast plane every 6
weeks. We talk frequently on the phone. They’re too young to use email
yet, but I email them photos and stuff through their mom and dad. I
make audio and videotapes for them. I bought webcams for my computer
and their computer—so we can join our faces with our voices.
I’m thrilled and amazed at how I’ve taken to grandparenting and how
both my kids and grandchildren have taken to me being a grandparent. Of
course, I have technology and financial means that my grandparents
didn’t have in the 1950s. But, I have much, much more than that. I know
what was missing for me and that has informed my awareness of what’s
possible being a granddad. I’ve developed a fairly high level of
consciousness about my responsibility. I rarely experience more joy and
self-expression than I do with these little ones. I have a profound
awareness of the vulnerability of life on this planet. I’ve worked hard
on myself and have transformed my fears into august actions.
Maybe this is just our family, maybe it is the times. Or perhaps it’s both.
What do you think?