Joe Pisani (opinion): I wanted to be 'The World's Best Grandpa.' Am I really the worst?

GrandParents Icon, people; ELDERLY; SENIOR CITIZENS; ELDERLY COUPLE
GrandParents Icon, people; ELDERLY; SENIOR CITIZENS; ELDERLY COUPLELorelyn Medina / Fotolia

When I was in Tractor Supply, I saw an old geezer wearing a T-shirt that said, “World’s Best Grandpa,” and I suffered what used to be called an “identity crisis” back in the 1960s.

“Why doesn’t anyone buy ME one of those T-shirts?” I wondered. “I have a beautiful granddaughter and two grandsons. So where’s my shirt?”

When I got home, I asked my wife.

“You haven’t gotten a T-shirt that says ‘World’s Best Grandpa,’” she said, “because you’re the world’s worst grandpa.” At that point, my identity crisis went into crisis mode.

Lately, she’s like a dog with a bone, constantly calling me the “world’s worst grandpa.” Maybe because I gave Mike and Ike candies to one grandson whose favorite food used to be broccoli — if you can believe that — and now he wants to eat Mike and Ike instead of his vegetables. Or maybe because I let him drink my coffee even though I warned him it would stunt his growth, and he wouldn’t make it past 3 feet. Or maybe because one grandson pulled the garden hose on me, so I grabbed it and drenched him. Or maybe because I enjoy buying them toys instead of giving them subscriptions to The New Republic.

I really want to be a good grandpa. Honest. I sit longer than any guy my age should be required to sit, watching “Paw Patrol,” followed by “Dino Dana,” about a girl and her creepy dinosaur friends.

But kiddie shows put me to sleep. When I was a boy, we enjoyed violent cartoons such as “Road Runner” and “Woody Woodpecker” that kept you stimulated.

I knew I had to improve my grandfathering skills after students in my public speaking class gave moving tributes to their grandfathers and told how they had a profound influence on their lives ... without giving them Mike and Ike.

I often fantasized that one day my four daughters would say, “Gosh, Dad, you were the best father ever and you’re a terrific grandfather too!” That day hasn’t come. Besides, my wife is going for the World’s Best Grandmother award, and I can’t compete with her. She wants to be the Meryl Streep of grandmothers.

So I’m writing this column for grandparents everywhere who aren’t the best, but better than the rest. You see, the most important celebration of the year is Sept. 12 — National Grandparents Day.

There are 70 million grandparents in America. Some 2.7 million grandparents — two-thirds of them women — are raising 3 million grandchildren. More than 6 million children live in their grandparents’ homes. Three out of four grandparents help with childcare. And grandparents spend $53 billion on their grandkids annually.

Some well-known people were raised by their grandparents, including Barack Obama, Eric Clapton, 50 Cent, Willie Nelson, Jamie Fox and Bill Clinton.

Grandparents are a natural resource. Consider this:

1. Grandparents generally have money in the savings bank, and they’ll leave you some if you show them a little respect.

2. Grandparents have time on their hands to run errands and pick up grandkids at school and soccer practice.

3. Grandparents offer free babysitting services so parents can go to a Foo Fighters concert or the new “Fast & Furious” movie.

4. Grandparents usually know how to cook — at least they should — and their cooking is better for grandkids than McDonald’s and IHOP.

5. Grandparents have cool stuff in their homes from the prehistoric times that you’ll never find in Target or on Amazon because they probably came from the Peabody Museum.

6. Grandparents love to talk about the “good old days.” Listen to them because America needs to return to the “good old days” before it’s too late.

7. Grandparents have their heads screwed on right, and they aren’t going to let their grandkids watch movies with graphic violence, foul language and sex scenes.

8. Grandparents have more common sense than other people. They have built-in BS detectors, so when a preposterous theory comes out of a place such as Harvard and turns into a national craze, they’ll tell you, “Don’t believe that nonsense.”

9. Grandparents know how to forgive because they’ve lived long enough to know we’re all flawed.

10. Grandparents are tough as nails because they’ve lived through wars and depressions and natural disasters.

11. Unlike a lot of parents, grandparents will take their grandkids to church, temple or mosque.

12. No matter how long grandparents have lived, they know life is short and that only a few things really matter — love, kindness, compassion, God.

Long live grandparents! Hug a grandparent or two today.

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.