Though right now my only granny role comes as a basketball elder, many of my friends are enjoying the privileged status of grandma as they dote on grandbabies. During a time when warmth and support is especially critical, Grandma’s love fills in the empty spaces of childhood.

Both of my grandmothers impacted my life in lasting ways, and shaped who I am today. My “flying” Norwegian grandma came from her home on the east coast for extended visits in the Midwest, at a time when air travel was not yet the norm. She made my siblings and me feel special by making pancakes for breakfasts and chocolate chip cookies for afterschool snack. She taught me to find joy in simple pleasures – sampling a piece of fresh-baked pie, handwriting a letter, seeing the season’s first cardinal.

Grandma Betty, my paternal grandma, inspired me to write by giving me a blank notebook and encouraging me to record my experiences. She made a ten-year-old tomboy believe her life was important. Grandma Betty saved money to take 8 of us in car trips cross-country from Florida to California, from the Grand Canyon to the Everglades, from the Golden Gate to Mt. Rushmore.

She had the foresight to save a piece of land in Wisconsin and build a cabin where her grandchildren could grow up; developing an appreciation for nature untainted by industry while hiking in the woods, swimming in a lake and singing around a campfire. Like a fortuneteller she envisioned a magical place for future generations to forge memories over lazy Summit Lake summers and remain connected forever through shared experience.

Grandmothers remember anniversaries and birthdays. They never miss ball games, band performances and school graduations. Today, they also play catch, rebound basketballs and run marathons. Grandmas are the first to take the sting out of life’s hurts and the last to criticize mistakes.

With the advent of women’s rights and the obligations of both career and motherhood, the expectations of mothers are endless. With the impossible demands of being a mom, Grandmas’ role has never been greater.

When her first grandchild, our daughter, was born, my mom slipped into her grandmother shoes with ease. During summer holidays and school breaks she planned outings to plays and parades, parks and pools, movies and museums for all six of her grandchildren.

At times when I was exhausted with a mother’s mandate to give, give, give, my mom picked up the slack. She played cards, read stories, baked cookies. She offered that same selfless support to my son and daughter that she once gave me. She mastered the art of grand mothering long distance. She remained a steadfast part of my children’s lives, nurturing them in cheerful phone calls, newsy letters and inspirational trans-Atlantic trips. Her kindness and compassion are a foundation of their being. She has shaped them in countless ways, big and small.

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Grandmothers will never truly grow old because their impact is timeless.