Editor’s Note: In celebration of Grandparents Day (Sunday, Sept. 8), Proprietor Galen Lehman is sharing his story of family and the joys of being a grandpa.
Someone once said, “When the child you love has a child you love, you understand why being a grandparent is so grand.”
Love, after all, is what strong families are built on.
When I first started working at Lehman’s, it was just me, Dad, Grandpa, Uncle Dave and Aunt Pearl, plus one second cousin, Ray Steiner. Somehow, in the near 50 years since then, we’ve grown to 120 employees. That’s meant a lot of changes for Lehman’s, but my family has been one constant through it all.
My grandpa, a man who farmed with horses and milked by hand, used to cross his legs and bounce me on his ankle. That was one of my first memories. It was his version of a horsey ride, something he knew a lot about. In fact, he was renowned throughout the community as an expert horseman. His horses helped grade the Kidron Road, which today brings 1000’s of guests to our little town every day. His hard work through the Great Depression helped build the foundation that allowed us to start the store. In fact, Dad couldn’t have gotten off the ground without a loan from Grandpa. And, Grandpa later became his first employee.
When I started working at the store in my mid-teens, Grandpa and I had lots of time to talk. Back then, there was often 15-20 minutes between customers. He told me stories of digging ditches, walking miles to work (yes, it was uphill both ways) and even told me a few of his dirty jokes (which were mild by today’s standards).
He passed away in 1981, but we remember him fondly. In the meantime, my own dad became a grandpa, and then a great grandpa. My oldest child couldn’t quite get his mouth around the word “Grandpa”, so he called him “Poppy.” That name stuck, and now all the kids, and even their spouses, refer to Dad as “Poppy.” Meanwhile, I moved from being the oldest grandson giggling without a care in the world as Grandpa bounced me on his ankle to being a father and then a grandfather.
I remember the joy I had as my newborn babies turned from a few months of “just being babies” to suddenly developing their own personalities, making eye contact and smiling back at me when I smiled at them. I thought I loved them from the minute they were born, but that first real smile absolutely melted my heart. And, now I get to experience that feeling all over again with a grandchild. Little Elliana just started beaming back at me, and even cooing back when I talk to her.
Being a grandparent is grand because we get to see the fruit of lives bloom before our eyes. My adult life has often been filled with stress, struggle and worry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a good life. But, even a good life isn’t always good. Mom used to tell me, “You have to have some pain to know how good it is when you don’t.”
But, one thing I want to do as a grandparent is give my Elliana, and hopefully every child that follows her, those same “without a care in the world” giggles that Grandpa gave me. Even when I bounced on his ankle, I knew he would keep me safe. I knew I was loved. I knew someone was looking out for me.
And, that’s what I want to give every child who follows me!
Happy Grandparents Day!