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True gifts of Grandparents Day given all year long

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Grandparents, your very own "Day" is coming up Sunday. You didn't know you had one? Well, that's a grandparent for you. You're accustomed to watching the calendar for everybody else's special day, aren't you?

Trouble is, your kids and grandkids may not know about your "Day" either, so this is my way of getting the word out. Even if they are aware, don't get your hopes up that you'll be showered with gifts. Being a grandparent is more about giving than getting, for most of us.

Which is not to say we want it any other way. When I became a first-time grandmother 11 years ago, I got the biggest surprise of my life. I discovered the meaning of unconditional love. That's when you love someone with all your heart and soul, and it doesn't even enter your mind that she owes you something in return.

And even though you're not expecting it, that little someone (your grandchild) loves you just the same way.

Is that the most priceless gift in the world or what?

Somehow, all other relationships are different. We almost always attach expectations of some sort to a husband, wife, child, mother, father, sister or brother. And these loved ones have their own expectations of us. It's the give-and-take of life.

Grandchildren and grandparents bond in this special way the world over in every culture. Those who miss this experience for whatever reason are truly deprived.

My son and daughter, now in their 40s, still laugh over the silly antics of their paternal grandfather who would make faces at passersby when he would take them out for a drive or a walk. Those same antics were so embarrassing to their father as a child that he refused to be driven to school by his father.

When my youngest granddaughter was a toddler, one of our favorite games was drinking 7-Up and burping loudly, and then giggling till we collapsed on the floor. Then her mom would spoil our fun by scolding us for being so gross, which, of course, we were.

Grandparents and grandchildren have a common enemy those authority figures, mom and dad. We're both at the parents' mercy, in a way. That doesn't mean it's OK to undermine the parents, however. Never, never. Grandparents have all the advantages we don't have to be the "bad guys" like the parents do. We have grown more mellow with age and experience. And we don't have the daily responsibility and care of the children. Being a good grandparent means supporting mom and dad while nurturing that special bond with the child.

Dr. Lillian Carson, in her book, "The Essential Grandparent," quotes from a story told by Victor Hugo about his granddaughter that points up the empathy between grandparents and grandchildren.

"My granddaughter was made to sit in a closet with no food as a punishment. When I snuck her a cookie, I said, 'I could get in a lot of trouble for doing this. They may put me in the closet.'

She answered, 'Don't worry, grandfather, then I will bring you a cookie.'"

Some of the greatest offerings grandparents can make to their grandchildren, Dr. Carson says, are these:

Unconditional love and acceptance.

Modeling a good life.

Providing family continuity.

Ensuring stability and security.

If you are this kind of grandparent, then you deserve to celebrate National Grandparents Day. Go on, live it up. Buy yourself an ice cream cone. Or maybe you'll get lucky like I did last Grandparents Day. My 8-year-old granddaughter wrote this on her card to me: "Grandma, you have been the best grandma I could ever have in my entire life. For that I owe you my life and love."

Wow.

Vivian Taylor can be contacted by e-mail at mailto:viv@cybertrails.com or by phone at 474-1386.

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