From baby to adult in the blink of an eye

AS if I needed another reminder of just how quickly time passes, today my first grandchild, Brooke, turns 18. How is that possible?

It seems like only 18 months ago she was an infant, wrapped in a blanket and sleeping against my chest. I barely knew her, yet I adored her instantly.

It wasn’t long before she was toddling around the kitchen, just short enough she could walk under the table without hitting her head.

The first time she called me Papaw ranks right up there with the first time her mother called me Da Da.

Before I knew it she was the adorable 4-year-old flower girl at my wedding. Then she was in kindergarten. Before I could wrap my head around that she was already in middle school, and soon she’ll be graduating from high school and starting college.

No longer do I have to worry about her bumping her head on the dining room table. These days I have to stand on my toes to wrap my arms around her neck for a hug. I must be getting shorter.

Like her mother, Brooke has never given me any reason to be anything other than proud. Not just proud, bust-your-buttons proud. She’s incredibly kind, smart and responsible. She excels in school, is a terrific big sister and is, in my completely unbiased opinion, an amazingly beautiful young woman.

I only wish she lived closer so we could spend more time together and I could get to know her better.

When it comes to grandchildren, there’s no such thing as a favorite. I love all five of them just the same. But Brooke was the first, and that’s special in its own way. It was through Brooke that I learned what it means and how it feels to be a papaw.

And thanks to Brooke I learned yet again that the human heart always has room to love one more person unconditionally. That’s an amazing gift and not to be taken for granted.

As the years go by I find that nothing in this life should be taken for granted. I know how lucky I am to be around to see and know my five incredible grandchildren. Five distinct personalities with at least one thing in common. They all call me Papaw.

It’s a title I cherish and one I take seriously. I hope that when they are my age their memories of me are as special as the memories I have of my own grandparents.

I know I can’t shield them from life’s inevitable ups and downs. But I can be there to celebrate their good times and encourage them through the rough times.

I hope I can impact my grandchildren’s lives in a positive way.

I know they have impacted mine. Brooke, Erin, Elise, Kaylee and Justin have changed the way I look at the world. Instead of worrying so much about myself and my future, I worry about their futures.

In that aspect, being a grandparent is no different from being a parent. We want the best for our children and our grandchildren. We want them to be healthy and happy and to be able to live the life they want to live.

The world has changed a lot since I was Brooke’s age. Not all of these changes have been for the better. And the world will continue to change.

Assuming we don’t destroy it before then, what will the world be like when Justin, now 4, turns 18? And am I, as his papaw, doing all I can to influence the answer to that question?

It’s too late for me to have any impact on the world my beautiful Brooke is about to face. But I’m not too worried. I have a feeling Brooke will take care of that.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or dshowalter@therepublic.com.