Remember grandparents on this very special day|National Grandparents Day began in 1979

Published 5:27 pm Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lifestyles & Features Editor

They’ve been there when you’ve needed them most, when you’ve wanted a lap to snuggle in or a shoulder to cry on.
And today’s the day to remember them, the grandmothers and grandfathers who make you feel so special.
Today is National Grandparents Day, and if you haven’t picked up a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates or, at the very least, a card, then you’d better get moving.
Grandparents Day was the inspiration of Marian McQuade, a West Virginia wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who convinced her state’s governor, senators and, ultimately, the president of the United States to declare it a holiday.
McQuade was moved by special memories of her grandmother, a farm wife whose company she cherished as a child, to petition state and national politicians in hopes of an official day of recognition. West Virginia, in 1973, became the first state to observe Grandparents Day, and the nation followed suit in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter designated the first national celebration.
Now, Grandparents Day has its own official song, “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa” by Johnny Prill, and its own flower, the forget-me-not. And, yes, companies have jumped on the bandwagon by creating greeting cards just for that special (and aren’t they all?) grandparent in your life.
Even those who no longer have living grandparents pause to remember them on this day of celebration.
Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette has fond memories from her childhood.
“My grandparents were some of the most influential people in my life,” she said. “They had the luxury of doing some fun things with you. I had wonderful grandparents.”
Jennette recalled one grandparent, in particular.
“My Grandpa Meier taught me to play croquet and he loved to beat us, even though we were his grandchildren,” she said with a laugh. “I think I owe him a lot of my competitive spirit. He was a big pinochle and Chinese checkers fan. … I have great memories of that.”
According to Jennette, her grandfather played to win.
“When we would play pinochle or any card game, he’d throw his last card on the table, rap his knuckles on the table so hard everything would jump and say ‘Gotcha!’” Jennette said.
Joey Toler, executive director of the Beaufort County Arts Council, said he treasures memories of his late grandparents.
“Sure, I have lots of fond memories of my grandparents, and especially of my grandmothers,” Toler said. “I feel my grandmothers with me sometimes because of the special bonds and special moments that we shared, especially when I was a young child.
“It’s true what people say, that they never really leave you because you carry them with you all the time,” he said.
Sarah Hodges is warmed to this day by memories of time spent with her grandparents, even though the last one passed away several years ago.
“I was raised in part by my grandparents after my mom’s death,” said Hodges, the public information officer for Beaufort County Schools. “My brother and I became a joint effort between our dad and our grandparents.”
Hodges shared memories of one grandmother who left a lasting impression on her.
“The house I live in now belonged to my dad’s parents and I can still hear my grandmother laugh sometimes,” Hodges said. “Her physical health deteriorated about 20 years before she passed away, but she still had a spirit about her that was unbelievable.”
The kitchen was the heart and soul of her grandmother’s home, Hodges recalled.
“I was her ‘maid’ at one time, and it was the biggest thing to me when she turned over the spoon to me, so to speak — that she trusted my cooking,” Hodges said. “She was a cafeteria manager at Bear Grass School and she was notorious for her cooking, so it was a big deal when she sat back and just supervised me.
“The kitchen was where we had the most fun,” Hodges said. “The first thing I cooked with her was homemade crackers. And now, every time I make her pineapple cake, I can hear her laughing, sitting at the kitchen table.”
Even when poor health plagued her, Hodges said her grandmother never lost her appetite for life.
“When she went to the nursing home, by her own choice, my dad put a sign on her door that said, ‘Wake me up. I’d rather talk than sleep.’ That was her,” Hodges said. “She loved people.”
Get well soon, Mema!
Lifestyles &Features Editor
Ever since I first learned that such a holiday existed, Grandparents Day has been pretty darn special to me.
I am one of the lucky ones; when I was born, all my grandparents were alive and well and I didn’t lose my first, Grandma Cutler, until I was a junior in high school. I even had the opportunity to get to know and love two of my great-grandmothers.
But, sadly, each passed away until I was left with but one, my grandmother on the Mayo/Smith side of my family. To the world, she’s Corinne Smith, but she’s Mema to me, my brother, his kids and our cousins. And she’s also my best friend.
So you can only imagine the sinking feeling I had a couple weeks ago when she called me at work to tell me she had fallen and hurt herself.
I phoned my aunt, who made it to Mema’s apartment before I did. She assessed the situation and contacted the rescue squad. When I arrived, the sight of this vibrant, active and funny woman on the floor in pain made me feel like I was 5 years old, helpless to keep her from suffering.
The doctors diagnosed a broken hip and after surgery at Pitt County Memorial Hospital, she’s on the mend, and for that we all thank the good Lord.
So, Mema, this is for you. I hope you know how very much you mean to me and how much I love you. Get well soon — I’ve got lots of plans for us!