Ode to my favorite granddaughter
In 1997, when I first met my girlfriend Cathi’s granddaughter Lauryn, she was only five months old. Cathi’s daughter Sheryl and her daughter Lauryn came to visit from Tennessee. Cathi knew that I never wanted kids and had limited experience with them so that’s probably why she put her granddaughter in my arms. I just melted. They were back four or five months later and I got to see Lauryn take her first steps.
Now with as crazy as I am there’s no way I should be around impressionable children. After all, growing up I had older brothers who would pull pranks on me. My brother Orvis used to love throwing ice water on anyone in the shower. Ken was a complete brat and told me outlandish stories like the “fact” that cows walk on two legs when people aren’t around. Tony told me the ice cream man accepted rocks as payment. I found out the hard way that he’d been fibbing. So I was built to be a jokester.
Every day we watched Dora the Explorer, Hey Arnold, the Backyardigans and Blue’s Clues among others cartoons. At night Lauryn would watch one of her favorite movies, “Babe” and sing along with the mice. Cathi and I used to stand outside her door and listen to her sing. I wish we’d recorded it.
But I was a nut. Lauryn tells the story that for years she used to keep her Barbies in the bathtub at night because I told her that they come to life during the night. I don’t recall telling her that but it does sound like my M.O. Oops!
But it wasn’t always fun and games. We worked on the alphabet and reading and used flash cards. Lauryn wasn’t enthusiastic about these learning experiences but she’d try. I also tried to teach her to ride a bike. Fail. And I tried to teach her how to dribble a ball. I failed again.
Every day she had chores to do and if she got gold stars all week on her chores chart, she’d get a prize on the weekend. One of those prizes was a trip to the Sacramento Zoo. After riding a horse named Ginger around a track, we went to a kiddie amusement park called Funderland near the zoo. After more than a dozen rides, we told Lauryn that it was time to go. The smile vanished from her face, replaced by a look of such forlorn it’s only been rivaled since by Puss ‘n’ Boots from the Shrek movies.
I raised my camera telling her I wanted to take a picture of her sad face after such a happy day to remind her of how she looked. She stood still and I snapped one of the best photos I’ve ever taken.
One day I had her come into my office with my webcam on and I recorded myself giving her a wet willie. To this day, it’s probably my favorite video.
When she lost a tooth I was nervous playing the Tooth Fairy. I had to employ some real no-joke-Mission-Impossible style tactics to pull it off without being caught, only to have Sheryl mishandle it the following year exposing the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus as frauds.
But the fun ended in July of that year when I had my first bout with cellulitis. I didn’t feel well and ended up flat on my back on the living room floor. Lauryn put a pillow under my head, held my hand, told me she loved me and that we needed to call Gamma. She did and Cathi came home and took me to the hospital. Lauryn went to stay with her Grandpa Jack in Rocklin before going back to North Carolina.
In July-August 2005, Sheryl, her husband David, Lauryn and 7-month-old Kawika came out to visit. We got to hang out on location of ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” in Fairfield. (Sheryl and Cathi actually helped work on the house in blistering heat while I lounged in the press tent sipping water.) Afterwards, we enjoyed a couple of great days in San Francisco.
In 2006, Sheryl and family moved to California from North Carolina. Almost immediately, Lauryn and I used a software program I had to record our first album together. I was “Byg Datty” and she was “Ladee T.” It was a crazy CD of songs like “Kickball,” a wild street kickball game with a cameo by Marvin the Martian, and “Lotta Butt,” a girl with a lot of butt. We sold the CD for $2 each and she made money to buy Barbies and Barbie accessories! We made a follow-up CD with songs like “Summer Daze,” and the high brow “Why Are Farts So Funny?”
Of course I couldn’t help but to prank her. When I took one of Kawika’s clean diapers, smeared it with peanut butter and wiped it on Lauryn’s arms, you should’ve seen the horror on her face!
What wasn’t funny was the accident we had the following year. You can read the full account HERE. Though I got banged up, the important thing was the kids were unhurt, thanks in large part to Lauryn stopping the van before it did any more damage.
There was the time in junior high that I told her if she ever saw a gun on campus to tell a teacher. The very next day she came home and nonchalantly mentioned she’d seen a kid with a gun that day at school! Startled, I asked her if she told a teacher. She said that she didn’t but she’d planned to. She didn’t say but I suspected she was worried about being labeled a snitch. The boy was caught and expelled. But I couldn’t help but think this was some kind of cosmic joke. What are the odds she’d encounter a gun less than 24 hours after I’d mentioned it? It really hit home the fact that parents or guardians are frequently no match for peer pressure.
I became more vigilant after the episode. And when I found that a man had been emailing Lauryn asking her to meet him for sex, I quickly told Sheryl. Sheryl swung into action working with the cop who ultimately busted the sleazy predator.
Once, Lauryn came home and showed me photos on her phone of classmates joking about Adolf Hitler and Nazis. I knew then that she needed a true appreciation of just what happened during World War II. So after getting the okay from her mom, we watched “Schindler’s List” together and I answered any questions she had.
We had a lot of fun together but she knew that she could tell me anything.
Whether it was watching her play soccer when she was grade school or drums in junior high, or dance with her mother in a professional hula dance troupe, it was always great to see Lauryn blossoming. Cheering her on when she played basketball for the Foothill High Mustangs are great memories. She had a monster basketball game against Bear River in January of this year where she sank five nothing-but-net three pointers and added some shutdown defense en route to a 44-15 victory.
Her high school years have been marked with the usual challenges and good times of boyfriends, rotating friends, schoolwork and social events. Early on in her high school career she had problems keeping her grades up. But she rectified it all. In her senior year she made the honor roll while playing basketball and working. Anyone who knows her knows she is a beautiful young lady, a funny person, a loyal friend and 100% real.
She wouldn’t be the person she is today without the tireless support of her mother Sheryl and her dad David. It hasn’t always been easy but they’ve raised a good person. Though I don’t see as much of her now as I used to she knows I’m a phone call or text away, and I still see her for Sunday dinner. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s my favorite granddaughter.
Lauryn graduates Thursday, June 11. But for me she graduated last week when she got me with a perfectly executed wet willie that I never saw coming, The student has become the master. I love you, Lauryn.