Some of the most important people in the family are grandparents. How quickly the years roll by. It seems only yesterday, you were young and carefree, living at home under the care of parents.
Then came the college years or you decided to work full time.
Next was marriage. Then children. Before you realize it they are grown, off to college, settled into jobs. They are married and you are in-laws.
Then one day you receive the momentous notice you are about to become grandparents.
Such are life's cycles.
One of my closest friends entered into the wonderful world of grandparenting a couple of years ago. In some ways he wasn't really ready for it — he and his wife were in their early to middle 40s when they received the good news.
"No way anyone is going to call me 'Grampa,' " he announced to all his friends. "The youngster can call me D.W., Don, Doc — anything but 'Grampa.' "We got a chuckle out of his newfound confrontation with the passing years. And we knew he would be "Grandpa" in a very short time.
But you know what? His granddaughter, who is now nearly 3 years old, calls him "Doc." He now has a second grandchild — and all his friends wonder if he will ever be Grandpa. In spite of what she calls him, he warmly and lovingly fulfills the role of grandpa. The proud grandfather takes a lot of teasing, but he still insists he won't be called "Grampa."
Whatever we want to call grandparents, it is one of the most inspiring times of life. Unfortunately, in many segments of Western societies, the art of grandparenting has been lost.
In today's highly mobile society so many young families move away to pursue careers far away from home. At this time grandparents can fulfill a very needed role of stability and provide a connection to hereditary roots. It is important to take advantage of their experience, love and concern.
The Bible teaches respect for age and its accompanying wisdom. God instructed through Moses, "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God" (Lev. 19:32, New International Version throughout).
What a shame when society rejects this important spiritual principle.
My wife and I noticed something recently while riding the crowded subways of Tokyo, Japan. When an elderly man or woman boarded, often a younger person would offer the older his place rather than see the elderly remain standing. That kind of respect seems to be rare today.
In many societies this is no longer the standard. Young people crowd onto public transportation and seldom assist the elderly when a bus or train is crowded.
With this declining respect for age comes an attendant lack of regard for experience and wisdom. It is a wise young person who takes advantage of his grandparents' knowledge.
Don't Forget the Past Our 12-year-old daughter spent last summer with her grandparents in Texas. They are all in their 70s now and have lived through and experienced the many changes of the 20th century. My job has required several moves and we are now living some 1,500 miles from our parents. But we know the importance of grandparents and their influence.
On my wife's side of the family there are 20 grandchildren. As patriarch and matriarch of the clan, her parents have set a fine example and standard, not only for their seven children, but for their grandchildren as well.
My mother has a special love for our five children. Since I am an only child they are the only grandchildren she has.
Our children have been able to stay with one set of grandparents or the other at least one summer.
So this last summer was our youngest daughter's turn to spend the summer with her grandparents. We found a book in the bookstore prepared especially for grandchildren to interview and record interests and experiences of their grandparents.
She took her book and has written stories from her grandmother's younger years. She heard things her parents had not heard. Maybe we just never took the time to sit down with our parents to hear them. So many of these marvelous experiences would have been passed over and forgotten had our daughter not recorded them.
The remaining years will pass quickly. So we are now making plans for a future visit to tape record a few hours of the interesting times and experiences of some of the generation that have lived through the most rapidly changing time in all human history. Maybe many of you might be inspired to do the same.
A Grandfather's Advice Several years ago our oldest daughter went to spend the spring school vacation at her grandparents. It was her senior year of high school and she was experiencing the agonies of making decisions about her future. Should she stay at home and attend a university nearby? Should she live near her grandparents and go to a junior college? Should she attend Ambassador College in California, where her grandfather and both her father and mother had graduated?
It was weighing heavily on her mind. She wasn't sure she wanted to move away to California (we lived in another state at the time). My wife and I were trying not to interfere — we wanted the decision to be hers.
One night during the visit, her grandfather took her out to dinner to discuss her future. He calmly and lovingly directed her to think about the pros and cons of each possibility. But having a deep love for Ambassador College he said, "Whatever the faults and flaws you may feel about Ambassador College, it is a better place for you than any other institution."
Those words of wisdom hit home. Even though she had applied to and been accepted at one or more other colleges, she came home from that visit to her grandparents determined to attend Ambassador College. It was a decision she has never regretted. She completed four years of college, graduated, met her future husband at college and is now happily married.
When the wedding took place last summer the grandparents were all in attendance. My daughter and future son-in-law had asked me to perform their wedding ceremony just as her sister who had been married a year earlier had done.
It is a special privilege not only to walk down the aisle to present a lovely young bride to the bridegroom, but to step around and officiate the ceremony. As you can well imagine it is a time of great emotion.
There was some concern from my wife that I would not fully maintain composure — that my voice might crack or a tear might come to my eye. She was certain she would be sitting in the front row holding back the tears (of joy, of course).
The eventful day came and I remained remarkably composed, I thought. The wedding march started and I escorted my daughter down the aisle. Stepping around in front I began, "There is no more joyous ceremony than this we now enter."
That was all it took. On the front row Grandpa simply could not hold back the tears. In order not to do the same, all I could do was bury my head in the ceremony and read it through. I know the joy of a father presenting his daughters as brides, but Grandpa assures me I have a special emotion waiting when my grandchildren take that step.
Somehow it seemed a proper conclusion to the advice he gave her nearly five years before. Never underestimate the influence of grandparents.
A Call for Grandmother There is one special time when you absolutely must have a grandmother. That is at the birth of your children. Somehow grandmothers know everything there is to know. And the fledgling new parents seem to know so little even though they may have read more than a dozen books on having and caring for babies.
Probably thousands of new fathers would have nearly starved had Grandma not come to take care of the household after the new baby arrived.
When we had our first child, Grandma came to spend the first week. It was so pleasant to have her that she had to come and spend at least a week at our home for the birth of our next four children.
One time Grandma and Grandpa were part of the whole process. When our third child, and only son, was born, we were living only a few miles from the grandparents. About 4 o'clock in the morning my wife jarred me awake saying, "Honey, wake up, wake up, the baby is on the way." This was happening a few days before "due-day."
I jolted out of bed and called the doctor. "Oh no!" his wife exclaimed. "My husband has gone fishing. There would be no way to find him on the lake."
I called the nurse. But she lived about 45 minutes away. "How far apart are the pains?" she asked. I rushed back to the bedroom to find out. "You'd better hurry," my wife urged, "the pains are two minutes apart." "Two minutes," I reported to the nurse. "I'd better get right over," she hastened.
Most expecting parents have read books on what to do in such emergencies. But you never feel you'll have to use the knowledge. This time I had to. Of all the times for a fast delivery, my wife had to choose this one. Our first child had been about a seven-hour labor and the second ,was eight or nine hours. I naturally assumed I had plenty of time, that the nurse would arrive and even the doctor would return from his morning fishing and be in attendance.
I called Grandma and Grandpa and told them the baby was on the way. They said they would be right over — it would take maybe half an hour. Forty-five minutes from the first pain, the baby was on the way into the bright world. There I was alone trying to keep calm and keep my wife calm. It really went smoothly and out came the bouncing baby boy.
About the time I had taken him up, Grandma and Grandpa burst into the room. "What do I do now?" I asked in a borderline desperate voice. "I think you'd better give him a gentle swat on the bottom," Grandpa quickly replied. I did. He squalled. Grandma took over caring for Mom and the newborn infant.
By the time the nurse arrived everything was in order. (By the way, the doctor didn't make it back till late that evening.) And the rest is history. Our son is now almost 20 years old, about 6 feet 3 inches tall and attending Ambassador College.
And I assure you his grandparents have been a great influence in his life — in his case from his very first breath.
Record Your Experiences for Posterity I would encourage you who are entering the autumn years of life to record your memories and experiences for your children and grandchildren.
One of my favorite books is one a caring and considerate father and grandfather wrote to his offspring. But millions of others have enjoyed and profited from it. It is The Early Years of Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of Ambassador College and editor in chief of the Plain Truth magazine.
Born in the last decade of the 1800s, Mr. Armstrong has seen the changes from horse and buggy to space flight. He has observed the marvelous technological advances, but noted the paradox of a society that cannot solve its human problems. He has certainly learned a great deal from a varied, busy and active life.
You can have a copy of Mr. Armstrong's illustrated Early Years free if you write our nearest office.
Those of you who are grandparents will relive many of your own experiences. You who are younger will see the world as it has developed in this modern and complex age. You will all find it fascinating reading.
But you don't have to be a professional writer to record your own experiences. So many of you who are grandparents have much to pass on to the next two or more generations. I hope while there is yet time you will write or tell as much as you can of the many lessons you have learned. That's part of the lost art of grandparenting you might want to recapture.
Building an Inheritance The importance of grandparenting is perhaps best captured in Proverbs 17:6, "Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." In those latter years of life, perhaps the greatest joy of all is seeing the grandchildren grow to maturity and take their place in the world.
If you have spent time with them, showed them their heredity, and influenced their decisions, you can complete those years knowing you have made a significant contribution to the lives of your children and grandchildren.
It is not always possible in our complex modern world, but one great blessing grandparents can provide is the building of an inheritance to pass along, not only to their children, but their grandchildren as well.
Solomon also wrote, "A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children" (Prov. 13:22). There is much to be said for laying up an inheritance. The years of hard work and accumulation of whatever worldly goods can be passed on from generation to generation. Too much of our modern society has become the throw-away type. We buy it, use it, discard it when it is worn out — which usually doesn't take too long.
But many families have beautiful heirlooms, antique furniture or family jewelry that can be divided among the children and grandchildren. Perhaps property has been in the family for several generations. I have a good friend who lives in a lovely remodeled farm home originally built by his great-grandfather after the American Civil War. The homestead exudes history and charm. How nice it is when such things can be retained in a family for generations.
But perhaps the most valuable asset of all that grandparents can pass along is their experience. Life is filled with many lessons. A wise person it is who will learn from the experiences of others rather than make all the mistakes himself.
And these experiences need not all be great lessons of accumulating wealth or making multimillion dollar business decisions. They can be some of life's simple yet often overlooked everyday lessons.
The apostle Paul wrote to older women, "They can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Ti. 2:4-5).
At first glance that might not seem earth shattering in importance. But if you take time to observe our hectic modern society, you will find those are some of the very qualities most lacking.
Young men often don't know how to be loving, understanding husbands of leadership. Young women often don't know how to be properly motivated wives and mothers, how to be submissive.
Is it because they have not been taught by or have not listened to the older generation?
Perhaps that is at least part of the answer.
Yes, there is a true art in being a grandparent. Many of our readers already are grandparents — even great-grandparents. Many others who are parents are going to become grandparents in the not-too-distant future. Even our young readers who are not yet married will find the years passing swiftly and the time rapidly upon them when they enter those exciting and productive years.
At all ages and levels there are few people more important to the family structure and even the fiber of a nation than the generation who are grandparents.
It would do us all well to turn our attention and respect to that marvelous class of individuals who have so much to contribute — GRANDPARENTS.