The closest I ever came to any of these celebrities was as an audience member at Pearl Bailey's Broadway performance of "Hello, Dolly." I do not even know if any of them would have been good grandparents. For me, they satisfied a need.
Of course, having someone tangible to play the role of a grandparent is much preferred. My 14-year-old son, Paul, loves the attention lavished on him by his best friend's two sets of grandparents. They invite him to their summer home in Maine, take him to the mall, and buy him little trinkets just like they do for their real grandchildren. One of the granddads even advises him on his batting stance and golf swing.
But such generous people are not always available. So, when my two oldest sons were preschoolers we decided to adopt two elderly residents of the local nursing home. Once a week we would visit Gladys and Rose. Neither had any family members in the area, so our drop-in visits were a welcome treat and broke up their mundane routines.
I was concerned that Vicheth and Daniel would be shy around these strangers, but they amazed me with their lists of activities and ideas for how to pass the time. The boys would bring puzzles and board games to play together. They would draw pictures side by side with these two lovely ladies. And on the occasions when Gladys was not feeling well enough for visitors, they would tiptoe quietly out of her room and find another eager companion to while away an hour or two.
Our visits were not always easy. Rose was very unhappy and always begged us to help her leave the home. But witnessing her depression was a significant lesson for the boys. I think it gave them compassion and made them realize just how important their weekly visits were. In fact, as a high school student, Vicheth chose to participate in a school-sponsored outreach program and visited two gentlemen in another nursing home.