Do Something GRAND!
Perched atop a stool in your grandmother’s kitchen (giving you reach to use the stove), you learn how to perfect a secret family recipe, just as your grandmother did six decades prior. Multicolored marbles clank in the adjoining room, as your sibling sets up a game of Chinese Checkers—since that’s the only game your grandpa really likes to play (even though he’ll play any game you choose). You never understood why she didn’t get upset when you spilled ingredients all over the freshly-vacuumed floor. At the time…you didn’t question why she chuckled at the sign of panic rushing across your face, slowly lifting her fist filled with flour above your head. Glowing with a knowledge you can only gain with time, they always seemed to be operating with a special energy and innate wisdom—one particular to grandparents…gently sprinkling white baking powder in front of your eyes, with the subtle advice attached, “You can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs.” The years will fly by after she is gone; but, that recipe will always taste the same—because she was the one who taught you how to make it.
We’re molded by the example of our grandparents, and the spongy nature of our child-size brain absorbs every influence it can, as we grow—formed and strengthened by the bonds of family relationships. An amalgam of the ancestors that came before, and the resulting people we eventually become, family ties are made stronger through the shared experiences that bind us to each other. After many years of lobbying by a group called Generations United, President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential proclamation in observance of the new holiday in 1978. Grandparents Day was officially announced as the first Sunday after Labor Day by the US Congress. This advocacy group still, today, “urges grandparents and older adults to share their wisdom, perspectives, and fundamental civic values with young people,” according to grandparentsday.org.
Having already lived the lessons we have yet to encounter, grandparents offer us baggage in the forms of nostalgia. Subconsciously preparing us to successfully catch the scheduled train about to depart for the future—whether we’re fully prepared to hop in a boxcar or not. With Grandparents Day occurring on Sunday, September 11th, 2022 this year, these two sets of local Enid grandparents remind us: for every single reason you find to love your grandparents, they have already multiplied their love for you by two-grand more.
Jim and Gayle Thorpe have been sweet on each other, ever since they got kicked out of their High School History class together. Having trouble concentrating on the lesson with her sweetheart stealing away her attention, Gayle remembers, “The teacher said, ‘Jim, if you and Gayle want to talk, you can out into the hall!’ So…we did, and that’s when our love began!” Although their romance started as a one-way ticket to being in trouble with their teacher, their admiration for one another continued to blossom as their relationship progressed to marriage, the creation of a family, and giving back to their community with “honesty, love, and concern for people.”
Those who know Gayle, or have a fortunate opportunity to meet her, quickly melt into the comfort of her soft voice and affirming words. She has an aura of grace in all of her movements, and her calming presence will soothe almost all the turbulence that comes her way. Jim has a quirky way of making the perfect quip in every moment, with Gayle’s “OH, Jim!” echoing behind his latest sweet sentiment or funny gesture. Combined, they have a rare quality in the ways they love people and live to serve others. Their infectiously kind spirit is mirrored by the philosophy they hoped to give their offspring, teaching the importance of “learning the words: I am Sorry, Excuse Me, and May I Help You”.
The Thorpes are lifelong Christians, with parents and grandparents who taught them about the Lord’s special love—a value they dearly wanted to instill in their own children and grandchildren. Having two baby boys, they were also blessed with two daughters, after their sons married. David, the oldest of the two, united with Jolleen; while their youngest, John, started another branch on the family tree with Traci. The family would continue to grow, as grandchildren sprouted in the forms of Brier, Caitlin, Brennyn, and Wyeth.
Jim recalls some of his favorite memories of being a grandparent, when he was story-telling, going to get ice cream, or taking his Grands on fishing trips or picnics. When asked what he felt upon finding out he was going to be a “Grand Papa” for the first time—a name his grandchildren would eventually call him lovingly—he states, “It was an awesome feeling. An unbelievable feeling of joy.” Jim reiterates that he and Gayle “had the most wonderful parents and grandparents ever.” He fawns over the memories of simply getting to spend time with them, while Gayle shares a funny story about chasing her grandmother’s chickens when they got outside their fence. She also tells tales of tea parties and cooking lessons, where Sunday dinners and Holidays would become the perfect showcase for those new skills acquired in the kitchen.
Both Jim and Gayle emphasize the importance of having Christ in their lives, and the role God has played within their union. They have an irresistible charm, and no conversation with Jim and Gayle can ever be long enough. They are always available for a chat about life, and they’ve passed this trait onto their grandchildren with whom Gayle has regular conference calls, or what her granddaughters refer to as “Girl Talks” and “Girl Lunches.” Some of Gayle’s favorite conversations have been when her grandchildren share stories from their childhood, where they join in so much laughter they “almost got sick.”
I asked them both if they would be willing to share bits of information regarding their grand-parenting style. For Gayle, she insists on having open and honest communication, having special talks and having special time with her grandkids. She emphasized the principles that are important to her, “Being kind always, and being respectable. To think before you speak, by sharing and showing love to one another.” Jim also found himself wanting to instill similar ideals, such as, “honesty and being truthful, and having love and concern for other people”, and overall, “Loving Jesus.”
Lonnie and Jodie Sanchez are another example of the power of love conquering all. A pair of young lovers, who met in the town of Woodward in the 80s, discovered Jodie was pregnant shortly after the beginning of their romantic love affair. The reality of becoming young parents before they were fully prepared to start a family, they decided to marry and begin this new journey with high hopes and empty pockets. Shortly after finding out about Anthony (their oldest son), they received news of a second child on its way a few years later. The arrival of their second son, Adam, marked the birth of the last Sanchez boy. Chelsea would bless their family as the first daughter; and, Chandler (their second daughter, and youngest child) made a surprise entrance, making them parents for the fourth and final time in the early 90s.
With family in Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri, the Sanchezs moved to and from each state at different intervals to be near family when they were needed. They always found ways to support themselves, even if that meant only providing the bare essentials materially, with hefty doses of love and emotional support making up the difference. Their children have grown up, and they are all in their twenties and thirties now. Being that Lonnie and Jodie were very young parents, the cycle came around to being young grandparents, as well. Fourteen years ago, they were introduced to their first grandbaby, Emily. Emily would be a surprise to the whole family for a big reason; but, not because they were becoming “young grandparents.” Upon her arrival into the world, Lonnie would lose one of his parents within the same week. The Sanchez clan found a silver lining during those grayest of days. Despite losing a parent, Lonnie would have the opportunity to meet his granddaughter for the first time, weeks sooner than originally expected. This less-than-ideal initiation into grandparenting came with a fee that was heavy on their souls, watching your children say goodbye to one of their grandparents in the same timeframe you become one. Their spirits continued to remain high through the upsetting circumstances. They found a deeper connection to the members of their family; and, together, they rejoiced in the shared love helping them overcome life’s obstacles.
Eventually welcoming three more grandchildren in the years that followed, Jodie recalled an important lesson she learned after having four children in succession at a very young age. Watching her four kids grow up together and being so close in age (with the last three kids attending high school formals/proms, in descending grades, during Adam’s senior year), Jodie saw the interactions grow with the years, and her children have maintained close relationships, despite so much distance in the three states they all live. “We get all of our grandkids together once every year at our house. Getting them together is a crazy worn-out mess, but it’s always fun! We want them all to know each other, and who they are as people, and you can only do that by getting them all together,” she says. Jodie wanted to give her grandchildren the same opportunity to cultivate lasting relationships, similar to her children, and she’s continued that tradition every year. With the oldest, Emily, now being fourteen, Mason is 12, Keith is 9, and Korbyn just turned 7 in July during his T-Rex-themed birthday bash at Oakwood Bowl & Tate’s Fun Zone.
The summer and fall of 2021 presented a challenging time among the brood. Jodie was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the same time her grandson would become a live-in model of “Generation Alpha.” (Or, “Mini Millennials”, another reference for births between 2011-2025, according to an article published by NC State University.) Generous and kind-hearted Jodie dug her heels into the mud of the situation, creating a do-able plan to help her family. Nothing would stop Jodie and Lonnie from once again being the superhero parents they’d always been…only this time, they would be parenting their grandchild through these uncertain times. Korbyn was in need; and, they would soon realize, they were in need of Korbyn, too. He took up residence with “Gigi and Poppi” in Enid, while his Gigi embarked on surgery and treatment. She refers to her experience as having “Cancer-Lite”; because surgery was successful, and she was fortunate to not have many additional side effects from the treatments. Knowing many others have experienced a much more antagonizing cancer story, she remains insightful about her chance to live a healthier and happier life. With Korbyn, they have found joy in the smallest of things—things they weren’t financially capable of doing for their own children when they were young. Feeling a slight bit of remorse and guilt for the circumstances they offered their children growing up, as opposed to Korbyn, they see this opportunity to offer all of those experiences now that they can afford it. Jodie says, “You do the best you can. You raise your kids the best way you know how, and hope you did a good job. We know so much more now, and have more now, so we feel lucky to see him experiencing all of this, too”
Lonnie has been in the Education field in Oklahoma and Missouri for over 14 years. Within this duration of time, Mr. Sanchez helped Enid Public Schools as a substitute teacher, before earning his bachelor’s degree and taking a classroom full-time. He’s been a science teacher for EPS, serving at both Enid High School and Longfellow Middle School. Earning degrees for himself, while guiding students to their own, he applied extra time to focus on students with special needs and high-risk youth. Jodie owns and operates S&S Estate Sales, with her talent for writing being a second source of income and self-fulfillment. Although they have busy days organizing sales and teaching students, they’ve continued to find new ways to bring joy to Korbyn, as he adjusted to a new school and a new routine. She refers to Lonnie as the activity director for Korbyn, and relays how he is usually in charge of planning the boy-centric outings. She also reiterates how Lonnie’s training and expertise has aided their success in the emotional transitions little Korbyn has faced over the last year. “I’m the flighty artist, and Lonnie is so logical and calm…I operate from the emotional side, and he brings me back to earth. We are a team, and that’s how we’ve made it work.”
Transitioning back to her expectations as a parent, while attempting to balance the discipline and life lessons with her personal philosophy as a fun grandparent, Jodie commented, “I used to be the youngest one in the group, and now I’m the old lady…in this particular season of our journey, it still works; we make it work. God brought this whole group of new people to do things with; and, it takes a lot of people to raise people.” Old wives may have a tale about requiring a village to successfully raise a child; and, today, in the year 2022, the Sanchez’s found a village in Enid to affix among their story’s adaptation of a grandparent raising a grandchild.
Celebrating the Generations
Nobody has grandparents like you. You are—singularly—the only person on this earth who has felt the way your grandparents have made you feel as a grandchild. Seemingly all-knowing to a child’s mind, yet captivatingly enigmatic, the relationship between grandchild and grandparent is as unique as cheek-pinching fingertips. Even among siblings and cousins who share the same grandparents, you would be hard-pressed to find two relatives that have experienced the same two characters, out of the same two people, who’ve became known to them as ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grandpa’. We find ways to differentiate the individualized love we have for these souls, commonly giving distinctive nicknames to celebrate their affections for us. Originally anointed your Gigi and Poppi, or G.G. and Grand Papa, one day you grow to find they have real names, too; not just the synonymous name-games you’ve played for so long.
Life is experienced in so many different ways, with those trains of nostalgia reaching the final station only after numerous stops have been made along the intersecting tracks. Grandparents often see the joy in every moment, far beyond the possibilities we were able to comprehend as children. Time can be cruel in a menagerie of ways, being: too fast, too slow, too monotonous, too chaotic…but, the inevitable lesson time will teach us all, is it continues to roll on. Regardless of what you call them, or the form your relationship has taken over the years, we should all find ourselves celebrating this Grandparents Day with joy, love, and gratitude. Tell them stories of your childhood; ask them about theirs. Discover all of the reasons that brought them together, that led to them bringing you here. On Sept.11th, pull out all of the stops—jump on the nostalgia train, and ride it all the way into the warm embrace of remembering why family matters.