The Joys Of Grandparenting
How five local residents bridge the generation gap – and have a great time doing it.
Photo by Denise Ritchie
Rick and Barb King bring their grandchildren to Vero Beach in waves of two over the summer. In early July, the pairing was 11-year-olds Brannen King and his cousin Madison Gent.
Although it has been 33 years since National Grandparents Day was proclaimed as falling on the first Sunday after Labor Day, this year’s date on September 11 will probably pass with minimal fanfare like all the others. The role of grandparents has never been well studied. Linguists have yet to conjure up a definition of a “grandparent” beyond the implied familial connection, and many modern dictionaries exclude the verb “grandparenting” altogether. Yet it is common knowledge that grandparents hold an active and valuable place in the family structure that neither distance nor busy lives need diminish. In Vero Beach, the grandparenting role is often synonymous with the kind of fun-seeking that bestows emotional and educational benefits and prompts lots of repeat visits.
This is certainly the case with newly retired educators Rick and Barb King, whose Park Shores condominium is enlivened much of the year by the sounds of one or two – and occasionally all seven – visiting grandchildren. “We thought we’d be empty nesters,” says Rick. “It never happened.” Rick generally travels by car to Macon, Ga., in early June to fetch 11-year-old Brannen King, perhaps the feistiest of the bunch, for a summer-long stay in Vero Beach. Holidays, birthdays, and spring break provide more abbreviated occasions for his visits the rest of the year.
Several of the other Orlando-based grandkids (surname Gent, all with first names starting with “M”) arrive in successive, 3-to-5-day waves over the summer for one-on-one time with their cousin and grandparents. Rick and Barb also make frequent trips to Orlando, and the whole Gent troupe – mother Laura, father Chris, six kids from diapers to 17 years old, and a 25-pound Schnoodle – return the favor but, for want of space, enliven the Driftwood Resort.
“Madison is our swimmer,” says Barb, pointing to the 11-year-old blonde who was paired with Brannen in early July. Swimming at the beach and the Park Shores pool is on the agenda most days. Madison is also big on collecting shells, while Brannen likes to boogie board with his fabulously fit grandma. “We’ve had some clobbering waves, but she survived,” Brannen says with understated comedic flair. His advice to would-be grandparents: “Find the interests of your grandchildren. We’re not all alike.”
Read the entire article in the September/October 2011 issue