Grandparents Day – September 12

From a speech given by Jon DeStefano to educators, parents and guardian-grandparents on Grandparents Day. . .
   I think I have a pretty good idea of some of the things grandparents do for their grandchildren and the difference it makes. My wife Peggy and I have 13 grandchildren ages 6 years to 18 years old. While I consider myself somewhat of a veteran I must admit most of what I learned about the difference grandparents make in a child’s life came from my own grandparents.
   Think back for a moment to your own grandparents. See if you can stir up a happy memory or two. Can you remember them and perhaps what differences they made in your life?
   Today we live in a very different world than the one we grew up in. Children and families have great challenges. As you know grandparents today are playing much greater roles in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
   I remember when I was a little boy at a time when my home-life was in great turmoil, my grandparents were there for me. Being at their home and with them was my sanctuary, the place where I always felt safe and loved.
   Every evening Grandma would take me for an Italian lemonade and we would walk a half mile each way to get a 10 cent comic book which was a long way for Grandma to go. And Papa on Saturdays would take me to the movies to watch Tarzan and cartoons.
   My grandparents made a huge difference in my life. Not just because of the time they gave me but because of what I learned from them.
   Years later when I was a teenager and lived in the suburbs they would drive out to see us every Saturday and then in college one letter I received every week was from Grandma.
   Two lines:
   “Dear Grandson Jon, We love you. Grandma Christine and Pa Caltro.”
   And always two one dollar bills. Grandparents are there for their grandchildren no matter how old their grandchildren get.
   Years later when I was in college and a freshman my girlfriend Peggy stopped in Chicago to visit me on her way home to Cincinnati and I took her to the old neighborhood to meet my Grandma and Pa.
   Grandma took Peggy by the hand through the old neighborhood and raising their hands together she shouted to all the neighbors as she went, “This is my future grand-daughter-in-law!” Sure enough, four years later the Saturday after I graduated from college, Peggy and I married.
   Grandma Christine was a great grandma but equally great as a grandma is my wife Peggy. We are blessed to be raising one of our grandchildren, Paul. We have had him with us since he was in second grade. It has been wonderful and at times challenging. He is about to be a senior in high school with a 4.4 gpa and he is anxiously planning his college career.
   When he first came to us, it was a great challenge for him, too. He was behind in school. His mom, our former daughter-in-law, was remarried with a second son. She was dealing with a substance situation she could not control.
   Grandma Peggy helped Paul understand that his mother loved him so much she brought him to us where he would be safe and could grow up in a healthy environment. His father, our son Jon, agreed, living with his grandparents would be the best scenario, though he would always be nearby for his son.
   What a gift to help a child understand what a difficult and sometimes mixed-up world this is. To help him understand his past, to help him feel good about himself and the people who love him—these are the things grandparents do.
   That’s what you do as grandparents, too. You understand that children learn what they live. You help your grandchildren make sense of the world they live in and how they fit in. That is what my grandparents gave me and that is what you give your grandchildren as Peggy and I have.
   We all realize we won’t be here with our grandchildren forever but I want to reassure you, it will be okay. Because while we will not dwell in their house of tomorrow, when our grandchildren get there they will know they were loved and they will feel good about themselves. They will know the difference between right and wrong and they will be well prepared for life and that will be enough for us.
   I want to tell you, for your grandchildren, that they will realize what you did for them and they will say, “Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, you made a difference for me.”

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