Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2011

Journals bring memories to life

I have two grandchildren, both boys, and when the first one came along, daughter (and Momma) B.C. presented me that Christmas with a leather bound blank journal book with the instructions that I was to keep a log of my times with Sean Robert Irwin (“Sir” – in monograms, the last Initial goes in the middle) as he grew up.  

Sir is four-and-a-half now, and I’m a good ways into his second journal, both of which are called, “The Grunk Journals.”  

When it came time to choose granddaddy names, one must realize that I was “Uncle Bob” in my Leland High School Yearbook – I am still not sure why – and that became my nickname throughout life, so that even my son-in-law John called me “Uncle Bob,” seeing that he and B.C. courted for seven years before marriage.  

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“Granddaddy Uncle Bob” was way too long, so was shortened to “Grand Uncle,” then “Grunkle,” and ended up “Grunk,” in Sir’s interpretation.  

At the time of his birth I was state chairman on the Kairos Prison Ministry, and when I announced at the next Board meeting that I had become a Grunk, my vice-chairman made the motion that the Kairos Uncle Bob be retitled as “The Grunk.”  

Therefore, when Christmas arrived two weeks later, B.C. gifted me with the first Grunk Journal. She gave me another just like it when the second boy came along two years later: Neill Leiton Irwin, or “Nil.”

So every visit by the grandsons is occasion for the next morning’s coffee to be drunk while I catch up entries for the Grunk Journals. When I filled up the first one, she gave me another blank one to continue my “Letters to Sir, Volume II.”

Nil just turned two a few weeks ago, and he’s making sentences now; though I could have sworn that Sir had started talking in sentences before he started walking. A visit to the first Grunk Journal proved me wrong. Nil is conversing at the same rate that Sir did.

After catching up the Grunk Journals following Nil’s second birthday, I sat back and re-read the first Grunk Journal.  

What a Blessing! I’m not sure that parents of children would be able to take the time to keep such a record of their own progeny’s adventures, but grandparents – especially a Grunk who is already a writer anyway – sure as heck would be able to do that.

I was so impressed by the subsequent blessings of re-reading what I’d written about every visit with grandsons that when one of my best friends was facing imminent grandfatherhood, I gifted Ed with a journal, although he is not a professional writer, that I know of, and certainly is not a Grunk, much less The Grunk.

Yet I met his blonde granddaughter yesterday – she’s just walking good — and made a mental note to ask Ed if he has been faithful to record his and Grandma Jane’s visits with Evie’s daughter on their Dallas visits.

Every grandparent should have a Grunk Journal, and if you didn’t start yours at the birth of your grandchild, just go out tomorrow and buy your first one so’s you can get started now.  

Here’s when it’s going to be so valuable: when The Grunk kicks the bucket, that kid will have a record of his growing up: the first word, the first step, the first potty-training, the first BB gun shot – whatever has happened, major or minor, will be there as a gift from his or her Grunk.  

Not that they will appreciate it until they get married and start a family, but at some point in their life, they will enjoy looking back to see even what lullabies were sung: just the other night, I was rocking Nil to sleep, singing softly the old ballad “Blood on the Saddle,” that my own kids were lullabied with, and suddenly realized that Sir, lying on the floor coloring, was singing along with The Grunk! I wrote that in too.