The Walton grandchildren are, clockwise, from left: Katie Walton (sunglasses), Lillian Walton, Kelley McCallum (in band uniform), Clara Walton, Gregory McCallum, and Titus Walton (bottom center).
PHOTO BY SHEILA (WALTON) McCALLUM
Occasionally, I see a bumper sticker on another car — it’s almost always a sport-utility vehicle — that says: “Ask me about my grandchildren.” I never do.
For one thing, I’m usually in a hurry to get somewhere. For another, it would be dangerous in traffic to roll down the window and yell at the lady in the next car: “How many you got?”
But now that my wife and I have six grandchildren of our own, I understand.
If somebody — you, maybe? — were to ask me about these six unique young people, well, how much time do you have?
My constantly evolving pocket-sized photo album — we grandparents call it a “brag book” — and my stories about each picture are ready to be shared at the first hint of your interest. You want to see the book?
OK, since you asked ...
This is a picture of our daughter’s oldest, Kelley. She’s gorgeous. The camera loves her. She’s about to turn 16. She’s driving now. She plays the flute in her high school band in Birmingham, Ala.
Like our daughter and my wife before her, she’s really in to Girl Scouting. Yes, our freezer, perhaps like yours, is full of cookies, mostly Thin Mints and Tagalongs.
Here’s a shot of her brother, Gregory. He’s 12 and a whiz kid at school. He’s a star on his school’s academic quiz bowl team. He tried sports but would much rather read a book, and he will do so in a day.
Following Kelley’s lead, he too has taken up a musical instrument, the trombone. You think it’s easy blowing into that thing with braces on your teeth?
Birmingham is too far away for a long weekend, but we do the best we can. When it’s been awhile since our daughter’s family has visited us in Ohio, we promise to pay for their favorite treat — breadsticks at a nearby pizza place — if they’ll make the trip.
It usually works.
Grandparents learn early that bribery is a handy tool.
Our other four grandkids live a whole lot closer, thank goodness, outside of Dayton in the historic community of Germantown.
This is Clara. She’s 12 and the oldest child of our son and daughter-in-law. She’s the athlete in the bunch. She can play any position on the soccer field, and she’s the point guard for her school’s basketball team. She runs like the wind, and her competitive fire is fun to watch.
She’s into 4-H and raises her own chickens. Recently she began producing her own weekly online newspaper. How proud do you suppose that makes this old editor feel?
Here’s Lillian. She’s 11 and the artist in the family. Her talent with a brush or pen in her hand is impressive in someone so young.
So taken were we with one of her drawings, we secretly “removed” it from her house, had it framed, and returned it to her as a Christmas gift. She gets her artistic skills from her mother, whose painting of a seaside home and lighthouse hangs in our guest room.
Next is Katie, and that impish look on her face is deliberate. She’s our free spirit. She’s 9, and I can’t wait to see where her boundless energy and zest for life take her. For Katie, every day is an adventure. She has taught me to look at life the same way.
Finally, here’s Titus. Have you ever seen a more beautiful blue-eyed blond 5-year-old boy than this guy? How do I describe the joy I feel when we visit and Titus runs up and jumps into my arms?
One day, he’ll be too big to do that without inflicting serious injury. But for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Both of our children’s households are rooted in a strong faith. These six kids are as grounded as grounded gets, and their parents deserve all the credit.
Six years ago, when my wife was diagnosed with cancer, all 11 of us — Titus hadn’t arrived yet — went to Disney World together. We all wore matching T-shirts proclaiming it our “Hold on Tight Tour.” The love of her grandchildren has sustained her ever since.
There’s another bumper sticker that is relevant here, and I know you’ve seen it. It says: “If I knew grandchildren were this much fun, we’d have had them first.”
I get the sentiment, but I don’t agree with it. I enjoyed watching our son and our daughter become the wonderful adults they are today, just as we treasured meeting and quickly growing to love the exceptional people they married.
May you be as blessed as we are. As for the grandchildren, thanks for asking.
Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” airs each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org