I have been a grandfather for five years now. I got a little later start than other grandfathers, but eventually my kids came through and now I have three grandchildren ages five, three, and 9 months –two boys and a girl. I hope that I can be as good of a granddad as mine were to me.
One grandfather died just before I was born. His wife was my grandmother Susie. I didn’t spend a lot of time with her, so I never knew her well. But my grandparents on my mother’s side were wonderful! I knew they loved me and enjoyed spending every moment with me when we were together. They taught me many things: stories about my family’s history, having a sense of humor, the love of Missouri and the importance of grandparenting. One of the simplest pleasures they instilled in me is the love of just sitting on a porch watching the day go by.
On my two week visits every summer with them in Neosho, we would spend hours on their front porch in the evening. Two of us would be in the porch swing, and one would sit in a folding chair nearby. We watched the goings on of their neighborhood, and we talked. Conversation never lagged. My grandmother loved poetry and as a girl and college student, memorized numerous poems which she recited to me. One in particular, fascinated me: the Ballad of Little Orphan Annie. It was spell-binding and a little scary. When they both went to work in the morning and I was left alone, I would spend a considerable amount of time in their porch swing.
Eventually, they left their small home and moved into a high-rise senior living apartment. They didn’t have a porch, so they didn’t need the swing anymore, but I couldn’t let it go. I brought it home with me. When I built a small log cabin from scratch, I put the swing up and found a new, pleasurable use for it. To sit in the swing brought back precious memories for me with my grandparents, and a new reason to enjoy the view from the cabin porch of the surrounding woods.
At our former home in West Plains we had a front and a back porch. I utilized them both. Before going to work, I would take a cup of coffee and my devotional books and read them quietly on the back porch. The back porch was raised off the ground, and had an amazing tree that wrapped around the porch on two sides. It was like a tree house. The 20 minutes alone in spiritual preparation made my day go better.
Now I live in Springfield and am retired. I have a covered porch in the back of the house where I now like to spend quiet time. I still do my morning devotions with a cup of coffee in hand. I have a beautiful back yard where the trees and shrubs screen out the neighbors. I watch the birds come to the feeders and the birdbath. It is quiet and peaceful and I find I can sit there for long periods of time without any difficulty. When we have company we eventually end up on the back porch for some good conversation. I trace my love of sitting on porches back to my grandparents. I remember the hours I spent with them fondly. One of the reasons I loved them so much was because of the time they shared with me in just sitting and talking.
One of the major decisions my wife and I made when we retired is to spend more time with our family and the grandkids. Both of us are making a conscious decision to become the grandparents to our grandkids that our grandparents were to us. We want to be familiar faces to them. We want them to grow up loving us, as we love them. We freely make this choice knowing that doing so will broaden their family experience, connect them to their own family history, and help their mothers and fathers reinforce solid values of faith and morals. And who knows, maybe we’ll produce another generation of porch sitters
Mark Mildren, retired Methodist minister, is the father of two and grandfather of three. He serves as the faith-community liaison for Good Dads and can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com