The grandest of grandparents

Well, we’re home.  Five weeks is a long time to be away, and I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy driving my own car and drooling on my own pillow.  I do love my house, my beer pints, my shower, and… what else?  Oh, that husband of mine!  Boy was I glad to see him!  The airport reunion between Clark and the kids was sweet, but they ditched their poor dad before we even made it to our driveway.  The neighbors were out playing catch, so Clark slowed down for them to say hello.  Sam stuck his head out the window and yelled, “WE’RE BACK!”  The kids swarmed the car and before we knew it they were off.  The last thing I heard was, “Woah, you’re all tan!” before they headed off for an 11PM play date.  What can you do?  Summer in Alaska… we were home!

A lot of my friends wonder how I handle going back to Nebraska to live with my parents for a month every summer.  And to be fair, I think my parents’ friends wonder the same thing (in reverse).  It seems that we all love our families, but maybe not all quite that much.

The truth is, I honestly enjoy hanging out with my folks.  And if it weren’t for family, we wouldn’t be able to give our kids a healthy dose of Vitamin D every summer.  The heat, the swimming, the fresh produce, the fireworks, my dad’s cooking… it’s glorious.

The weather is important, but the real reason we go back is for the grandparents.  Our children are blessed to still have three great-grandmothers, two grandmothers, and one grandfather.  For as long as we are able, we will do all that we can to make sure they know and remember these special people in their lives.

Clark has great memories of going to his grandparents’ farm – just today he was telling the kids a story about giant green apples (he says they were as big as his face) that grew there.  One time he climbed that apple tree and ate so many that he got sick!  I have some great memories of his grandparents too.  My favorite memory about his grandmother is from her visit to Alaska:  she was 88-years-old and up for the adventure of a Kenai river float trip.  When we got to the river and inflated our 14 foot raft, she let out a sigh of relief at how stable it looked.

“What were you expecting?” I asked.

“Well, like something from Huck Finn,” she replied.

“And you were still willing to come?!?!”  I was shocked!

That pretty much sums up her spirit.  She is currently a 96-year-old card shark who was just inducted into the Pierce High Hall of Fame, with all four of her children in attendance.  Here she is with Sam, Maggie, and their cousin Austin:

Sophie Retzlaff – Clark’s maternal grandmother.

On the Quigley side, I can recall spending every Christmas Eve and so many birthday parties with my grandparents.  It was a huge family, with cousins galore, so there were parties every month.  To this day, my grandmother never misses a birthday or anniversary.  Even with over a dozen great-grandchildren, she gets a card in the mail on time, every time!

Some of my favorite memories with my “Gramma Q” (as she signs all her cards) are from her Alaska visit.  She, too, was up for anything.  We floated the Kenai, ventured to McKinley, and even went on a glacier hike!  She is an avid traveler, and getting to know her as an adult was a riot.  Here we are in a four generation photo with my dad and the kids:

Lillian Quigley (my paternal grandmother)

My Grandma and Grandpa Daehnke’s house was like a second home to my brother and I when we were young.  They often picked us up from school.  I can remember running from our one room schoolhouse into their giant green and white van, where we would hide under blankets in the very back as my Grandma drove to Hormel to pick up my Grandfather at the end of his shift.  He of course knew we were there, but would make us giggle with curmudgeonly statements like, “Are those pesky grandkids coming over today?”  Then we’d go to their house where he’d let us shoot him with styrofoam pellets that made his false teeth fall out (which made us squeal with delight) or whip us at Monopoly (which would make me weep with frustration).  Grandma nursed our earaches, fed us dinners, and tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me to sing on key.  They were a huge part of our childhood.

Grandma has visited us in Alaska twice.  The first time she came with my mom when Sam was two-weeks-old, and boy did we need her.  We were nervous new parents and she had a knack for calmly singing him to sleep on her chest.  She came again last summer, and went salmon fishing with us in Prince William Sound.  Here she is with the kids on our last night in Nebraska:

Dede Daehnke (my maternal grandmother)

So here we are, raising our own children so far from their own grandparents.  I want them to have those same memories, and it seems that spending a chunk of our summer in Nebraska is the best way to make that happen.  Clark does too, and that’s why he encourages us to go, even though he misses us terribly.  (Actually, the first week he’s in bachelor heaven.  But after that, I’m pretty sure he genuinely misses us!)

The distance makes it hard, but our kids already have memories hard-wired into their brains.

With Grandma Cox:  Marshmallows and M&M’s.  Bike rides to the park.  Playing Sniggle.  A basement full of toys and annual trips to the zoo.

Grandma Cox (Clark’s mom)

With Grandma and Grandpa Quigley:  truck rides through the pasture, picking cucumbers, catching fireflies, trains, feeding kitties, the tetherball poll, and (after this year!) the swimming pool.

Grandpa and Grandma Quigley (my parents)

Actually, who knows what they will really remember.  These are just my predictions, but kids always surprise us.  All I know is this:  they will remember.  And that’s all that matters.

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