“Pretty awesome picture! You look kinda young to be a great grandpa.”
I’ll take compliments anyway I can. And, yes, being a great grandpa is a compliment at 64 because it means I have “great” grandkids.
That text message was in response to a photo I sent my sister Mary on Saturday after I spent the day doing something I never thought I’d ever be doing. I was attending a baby shower for my youngest grandchild Katelyn. But then again I never thought I’d have grandkids either.
But I’m really not a few months away from being a great grandfather. I already am.
This summer the three “R”s restored my faith in the fact rough roads that we travel lead us to pretty amazing things in life. The three “R”s in this case are Ryan, Rudi, and Rebel.
Rebel is the daughter of Rudi Pardee and Ryan Lenhart.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Ryan was a 7-year-old rootin’ tootin’ cowboy complete with holster and six-shooter, a 9-year-old budding Greg LeMond who didn’t have to ask me twice to take him out on the Tidewater Bikeway, and a 10-year basketball player who could pass like he meant it and I had a jammed thumb for three weeks to prove it.
Rudi is the love of Ryan’s life. She’s got a lot going for her and she’s smart.
Rebel is amazing. Watching her smile, grab for your finger or simply to cradle Rebel in your arms reminds you that life is full of little miracles just like her.
Too often we forget the fact that we are even breathing is a miracle as we allow the trials and tribulations of life harden ourselves and ultimately blind us to the great gift we’ve been given.
Twenty-eight years ago when I first met Ashley I got my first crack at the privilege of watching someone grow and helping them to a small degree as they navigate the road of life. Ashley came into my life when I started dating her Nana. Just over three months after our first date Ashley was in her Sunday best as Cynthia and I exchanged vows.
In the coming years I learned a lot about life as Ashley grew.
Among the lessons is if someone calls me out of a group exercise class to change the diapers of a baby it would help if I had my glasses on. Somehow I put Ashley’s diaper on inside out and backwards. My handiwork got more than a few laughs out of Ashley’s mom and grandmother who— try as they may — could not replicate my feat.
Ashley helped remind me of the beauty in little things. As a kid she could craft wondrous art works of common objects.
It was on the few times I took her hiking with me that she gave back to me more than I ever gave her. By the time she was in her 20s she found her peace in nature exploring creeks, ponds, and lakes. After taking her to Hetch Hetchy and seeing it through her eyes that saw things I would just hike right by, she helped deepen my love of the mountains and nature in general. She even got me to appreciate the beach and the ocean — two things that were way down my list before Ashley came along.
After Ryan popped into my life I got a chance to see the world again through the eyes of a young boy with big dreams, a mischievous sense of adventure, and a desire to try new things.
He’s one of the few people I’d ever jogged with although I’m sure Cynthia would have be none too pleased. Ryan dropped by on a surprise visit as his mom had to go somewhere. I was just about to get ready to go out for a run. I figured we’d just watch TV or play a board game until his mom came back. Ryan would have nothing of it. He wanted to go running with me. So we went running. It was 100 degrees. I cut my four mile route by half and took a big water bottle.
By the time we got back to the apartment Ryan not only drained the water bottle on his own but provided me with the best “run” ever as he chatted up a storm and was bragging only how a 9-year-old can do about running “10 miles.”
I was impressed even though Ryan clearly hadn’t run 10 miles. I thought he’d want to turn back after the first few blocks or would end up complaining but neither happened. In just one outing running with him showed me the beauty in embracing jogging and not looking at it as a chore one needed to do.
Just before Katelyn made it three grandkids, I got the “been there, done that” attitude. After all I am a third child and understand the novelty can wear off with parents as they are a little less intense and have seen the world through a kids’ eyes before. It doesn’t mean they love you less. I get it.
I will always remember the thrill and anxiety of my first hike to the top of Mt. Dana at 13,061 feet on the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park. I still love it as much each time I return there. The apprehension of the unknown and navigating unchartered waters makes the first excursion more intense but it certainly doesn’t devalue the return hikes that follow.
Katelyn has a lot of the “third kid” personality that I can identify with and appreciate. She also has a different intensity when it comes to determination and resilience. Katelyn also loves books — a big plus as far as I’m concerned. I don’t quite get her fascination with sharks but then again I’m sure she thinks I’m a bit goofy due to my fixation with zebras that I’m slowly getting over.
Ashley, Ryan, and Katelyn have their ups and downs just like all of us. I’ve become immensely rich in ways that really matter thanks to being blessed with having them in my life.
Now Katelyn along with Michael Page are going to have a child they plan to name Wyatt.
How awesome is that?
I can’t think of a greater treasure than watching two young couples who not too long ago were taking their first breaths bringing new lives into the world and nurturing them as they grow.