My maternal grandparents had four grandsons relatively early in their lives. My grandfather truly enjoyed us all. He liked the sports and our rough and tumble ways. Boys will be boys was the natural order of things, at least in his mind. Then my sister came along.
Even at an early age, it is easy to sense when the pecking order has changed. My grandfather, Granddaddy Joe, finally had his first granddaughter and all us boys had been pushed to the back of the line.
All the clichés applied to “Sister”, as she is called. She was the apple of his eye. No dress could have too many frills or ruffles. She wrapped him around her little finger before she ever knew what she was doing.
I do not really think that the four oldest boys were really jealous. There would be another girl after my sister, and then another boy. But only one of their grandchildren was the first granddaughter and we all knew it. Their special relationship lasted until Granddaddy Joe passed away. “Sister” was 40 years old at the time.
Time moves on. Mary Lou and I have two daughters, who then blessed us with four grandchildren. Three boys and, you guessed it, one girl. I understand my grandfather a bit clearer now. There is something special about a granddaughter. In my case, there is something special about Laura Beall Faulk.
Laura and her friend Carlee came to Auburn this past weekend. The visit was Mary Lou’s idea, but we did not know at the time that I would be the only grandparent around. Mary Lou was in North Carolina visiting her closest college girlfriends.
I picked Laura and her friend up in Eufaula, with plans to eat in Auburn before attending the Auburn vs. Alabama gymnastics meet. We were planning to go to Taco Mama, Laura’s favorite local eatery. Unfortunately, a lot of other people had the same idea and the line extended out onto the sidewalk in the cold weather.
We looked around the downtown area and could not find a parking place, much less a place to have a quick meal before the fast-approaching beginning of the meet. We finally wound up at the Waffle House near Auburn Mall where they informed us, they were doing takeout only. Not a good start to the weekend.
Eventually, we found ourselves at the Hibachi Grill, desperate for anything fast. A Chinese buffet was not on anyone’s list but it turned out to be the perfect choice. Two twelve-year-old girls were laughing and giggling as they tried everything on the buffet.
We made it to the Auburn Arena just in time. It was packed and the Jungle was alive with students cheering the Tigers. We had seats in the fourth row and the girls were obviously having a great time. Someone texted me with a screenshot captured from ESPN. We were on TV!
Two hours later, excited from the energy of the crowd and the adrenaline of a win over Alabama, we made our way back home. Time for ice cream and sprinkles. It is amazing what great conversations you can have over sprinkles.
Laura and Carlee were having so much fun, suspended in the great space between being a child and an adult. I was privileged to be on the edge of it, witnessing my only granddaughter laughing hysterically, then offering a thoughtful and serious comment. She is smart, athletic, and talented. A great personality and smile. A heart as big as they come and a kindness that goes along with it.
I do not know if this is what my Granddaddy Joe saw in his two granddaughters. I just knew it was special and different. While I love my three grandsons intensely, for just a while this weekend I got to experience that bond that can occur between a grandfather and his granddaughter.
“We had so much fun”, Laura said as she hugged me goodbye the next morning. I wonder if she will ever know just how much the visit meant to me or how much fun I had. Just hearing her say it was worth it all.
As I drove away, I finally understood what my grandfather had seen over sixty years ago. All our grandchildren are blessings beyond understanding. A granddaughter is the promise of tomorrow. Laura has me wrapped around her finger, and I love it.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org