It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the 15th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. My grandfather–affectionately known as “Pa Joe”–left us too soon.

I was 21 when Pa Joe passed, so I have memories aplenty, but at only 72, it didn’t seem long enough. But when I thought of my youngest brother–only 13 at the time–I realized how fortunate I was to have 21.

What saddens me, though, is how much has happened in the last 15 years that he wasn’t here to see. Six out of his eight grandchildren are now married. And those marriages have ushered in eight great-grandchildren.

I smile when I think of how much he would have enjoyed my kids. And then I tear up.

I can show them pictures of Pa Joe, but they’ll never know him. My grandmother, Louise, lost her husband almost 15 years ago. She has lived 15 years without him.

Some of my fondest memories of Pa Joe take me back to his garage. I can picture his Craftsman tools—his saws and scrap wood throughout. I remember prepping for the Pinewood Derby in that garage. The Derby was a chance for Scouts to earn racing glory as they watched their small, wooden cars descend down the long track. Pa Joe had made these cars with his son, my uncle, so he was an old pro by the time I was in school. I remember the first car he helped me make; it somewhat resembled a station wagon, not the most aesthetically pleasing, but that was by design. Pa Joe knew just where to put the weights. It was definitely one of those “sleeper” cars, the kind you’d see and casually dismiss, not really considering it a real threat.

When it came time for the Derby, though, our burgundy station wagon didn’t disappoint. I took first place that night—destroying the competition—and I couldn’t wait to show Pa my medal, our medal.

The next year, we made our Derby car a little sportier by reworking the profile and back end. We chose black this time, and I loaded that baby up with as many decals as I could find. It looked terrific, but it wasn’t just a pretty face—it performed, too. I took second place that year, and I was just as proud of my silver medal.

I still have the cars, and I still have the medals. In fact, I pinned both medals to my suit jacket for my grandfather’s funeral back in 2004. It just felt like the right thing to do. It was a way to honor him, a way to keep those medals close to my heart. It’s impossible to look at them without thinking of Pa.

Growing up, my proximity to both sets of grandparents left no shortage of opportunities to see them. Being only a few miles away, holidays weren’t the only reasons for gathering, and I’m grateful.

My wife and I are fortunate to have our parents living nearby. Now, there aren’t any granny-pods in our backyard, but they aren’t far away. Our children have the opportunity to see both sets of grandparents each week, which I think is great.

Sometimes, though, I sense that some are scoffing or rolling their eyes at the drop-off frequency at Nanna and Grandpa’s or Nonno and Nonna’s. We’ve heard a comment or two, usually subtle, but there’s a feel that accompanies it. It’s true, we plan specific days each week for our kids to spend time with my parents and my wife’s parents. The days are usually consistent, and it’s something our kids look forward to each week. And I might add, our parents really look forward to it as well. Does it afford Mom and Dad an opportunity to have dinner or see a movie without the kids? Absolutely. It’s great for us, too. It’s healthy.

I know not everyone enjoys the same situation, though. Some have parents who don’t live in the area. Others may have relationships that are strained. And sadly, some have already lost their parents. In short, not everyone has the opportunity to drop their kids off with the in-laws or their parents every week. We’re fortunate, and we appreciate it.

But I won’t apologize that my kids spend a few hours with my mom and dad almost every Friday evening. I won’t apologize that I drop my kids off at my wife’s parents’ home every Saturday for a few hours.

They are forging some of the most meaningful bonds they will ever know and as they continue to mature, they will realize that time with their grandparents is one of life’s most precious gifts.

I look back at my childhood and smile when I think of all the special moments shared with my grandparents. They were involved. I saw them often. They came to my sporting events. They stopped by our home with food. At 36-years-of-age, I’m down to two grandparents. I’ve said goodbye to both grandfathers and now I cherish both grandmothers, 91 and 90, respectively. I’ve had a lot of time with them, and there’s nothing like it. I love their stories. I delight in their unique home décor. I smile in knowing what kinds of snacks they house in their refrigerators at any given time.

There is just something special about grandparents.

And my children have been able to spend time with their great-grandmothers, as well. Not all children are that fortunate, and so it’s not lost on me how precious this time is.

As the 15th anniversary of Pa Joe’s passing approaches, I can feel my eyes welling. One of his favorite things to do was to sit on the front porch. It’s been over 15 years since I’ve seen him on the porch and that ensuing smile that would spread across his face upon my arrival. It hurts when I think about it, but the pleasant memories soften the sting.

And so, I’ll continue to drop my kids off on Fridays and Saturdays. We may hear the occasional “must be nice” from our friends, and if we do, that’s OK. It is.

And if those days don’t work out, we’ll find another. Dropping my kids off doesn’t cheapen my love for them. As important as my relationships are with my own children, I know their relationships with their grandparents are meaningful, too. Time passes quickly. 15 years without Pa Joe on the porch is entirely too long. The memories I made inside his garage and under his tutelage are priceless. I’ll always have them.

Mom and Dad always made sure I had time with my grandparents. My kids deserve the same, and as much as it depends on me, I’ll provide the opportunities.

You may also like:

Then Came the Grandparents

Raising Our Kids Near Their Grandparents is the Greatest Gift We Could Ever Give Them

Let the Grandparents Spoil While They Still Can

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Patrick Danz

Patrick Danz is a follower of Christ, husband, father, educator, and sports enthusiast. He lives in Trenton, Michigan, with his wife, Nicole, and their three children: Keason, Carmella, and Alessandra. When he's not teaching, Patrick spends his time writing, golfing, grilling, and quoting lines from Groundhog Day. His work has appeared on and Fatherly.      

My Child with Special Needs Made His Own Way in His Own Time

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding child's hand walking across street

I want to tell you the story of a little boy who came to live with me when he was three years old. Some of you may find this story familiar in your own life. Your little boy or girl may have grown inside you and shares your DNA or maybe they came into your life much older than three. This little boy, this special child, my precious gift has special needs. Just five short years ago, he was a bit mean and angry, he said few understandable words, and there was a lot about this world he didn’t understand. Unless...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter as You Grow into Yourself

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Girl in hat and dress-up clothes, color photo

My daughter, I watched you stand in front of the mirror, turning your body left and right. Your skirt was too big and your top on backward. Your bright blue eyeshadow reached your eyebrows and bold red blush went up to your ears. You didn’t care. I watched you marvel at your body, feeling completely at ease in your skin. You turned and admired yourself with pride. You don’t see imperfections. You don’t see things you are lacking. You see goodness. You see strength. RELATED: Daughter, When You Look in the Mirror, This is What I Hope You See I’m...

Keep Reading

Organized Sports Aren’t Everything

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young girl with Alpaca, color photo

Today I watched my little girl walk an alpaca. His name is Captain. Captain is her favorite. He’s my favorite too. I met his owner on Instagram of all places. She thought I was in college; I thought she was a middle-aged woman. Turns out, she is in high school, and I am a middle-aged woman. This random meeting led to a blessing. We call it “llama lessons.” We take llama lessons every other week. It’s an hour away on the cutest hobby farm. Our “teacher” is Flora, who boards her llamas at the alpaca farm. She wants to teach...

Keep Reading

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading