Dear Grandpa...Here's What I Learned From You

By: Jerry Witkovsky

In the bustle of day to day lives, with grandkids being shuttled from sports to school to activities, grandparents may feel they are sometimes left on the sidelines. But, the truth is that grandparents are vitally important in the lives of their grandkids...they may just forget to show just how much sometimes.

As part of my book, The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, I collected 30 letters from grandchildren of all ages and backgrounds, asking them to share what they had learned from a grandparent. I was fortunate to include my own grandchildren in the process. Here’s a letter from my granddaughter Kathryn (always Katie to me), now 28:

I remember it like it was yesterday—the times I spent in downtown Chicago in my grandparents’ old apartment. I remember family dinners, I remember playing dominos in the living room; I remember my grandparents cooking. I remember “swimming” in my grandmother’s “messy room”. However of all the memories, what I remember the most is playing catch with my grandpa in his back room. It felt like hours were spent back there with a package of tennis balls, and my grandpa repeating one line over and over (and over): “Katie, always keep your eye on the ball!”.

I enjoyed playing catch and as I grew older I played softball, soccer and basketball-and through the years my grandpa would continue telling me to keep my eye on the ball. No matter what sport it is you have to be determined and stay focused.

Well, I soon learned that keeping your eye on the ball did not only have to be about a tennis or soccer ball, but was a way of thinking about life and keeping focused on anything you wanted. If you want something enough, you need to work hard and keep track of the objective no matter what it is.

I know that what I’ve learned from my grandparents will help me through the rest of my life. I’ve come to believe that grandparents are truly teachers to their grandchildren-that it is not only the parents’ responsibility-because of the luck of knowing the loving and amazing grandparents I have been blessed with.

Overall I could not be more grateful to have a family that is open with feelings and communicates well with each other. I also feel fortunate to have grown up in a well-rounded environment that has always involved “playing” together on vacations and participating in outdoor activities, as well as observing religious holidays and serious family discussions…all built upon the foundations created by my grandparents

As great as all the memories are, when asked to put in writing what I have learned from my grandparents, I wanted to be sure to do it justice by expressing the impact of their unconditional love. This love they have given me and the rest of our family a foundation to live a happy, healthy life…no matter what our road or how curvy it may be, along the way.

What I carry with me the most from my grandparents is fairly simple: to be a good person, a good family member, and to play an active role in every community I am a part of.

Love, Kathryn (written at 25)

Go ahead, ask your grandchildren to write their letters to you! (Or, parents...Grandparents Day is coming up on September 13...why not put a bug in your kids' ear and create the best gift ever with a letter from the heart!

What would you say to your grandma or grandpa?

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Jerry Witkovsky is the author of The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, a self-help, how-to guide to enable families to connect more deeply across the generations. A long-time social work professional, grandparenting activist, and passionate Grandpa, Witkovsky guides you toward the Grandest Love of all, with fresh approaches to helping grandparents enter their grandchild’s world to leave values, not just valuables and create a living legacy. Learn more at


Deanna Shoss

President Intercultural Talk, Inc. Recognized in 2005 “Who’s Who in Chicago Business by Crain’s Chicago Business, Shoss brings over 25 years of communications, marketing, social media and intercultural experience to her work for you. A certified Inbound Marketing Specialist, Shoss has led workshops and training on social media for individuals, businesses, not-for-profits and international associations. “I can do it for you or train you how to do it,” says Shoss, about serving clients who want to have a vibrant web presence and connect to everyone from the people they serve to industry leaders using tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email and more. Shoss has worked with City government, with McDonald’s Owner/Operators, is past President of the League of Chicago Theatres and provided brand management, social media and marketing strategy to serve 31,000 people across 40 programs and two agencies as Director of Marketing, Communications & Business Development for Jewish Child & Family Services and JVS Chicago. With a Masters in Anthropology and Marketing, Shoss founded Intercultural Talk, Inc. in 2006, a marketing consulting firm providing marketing strategy through delivery with clear, succinct messages that resonate with people of all backgrounds.