Grilled Grandma: Kayann

How many children do you have? I have three children - a son Patrick and a daughter Becky who both live near Portland, Oregon. I lost my son David on September 11 at the Pentagon.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? Six grandchildren: Sophie 15, Meredith 12, and Dave, Jr. 10, who are my son David’s children. Patrick 10 and Abby 4 are my daughter Becky’s, and William 7 is the son of David’s wife and her husband.

Any great grandchildren? Not for awhile I hope!

What do your grandchildren call you? Sophie, Meredith, Dave, Jr. and William, who live in Belgium (soon to be returning to the states) call me Grandma in St. Louis (grandma for short). Patrick and Abby call me Grandma K.

After the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would soon be a grandmother? I don’t remember having any concerns when I first learned of becoming a grandmother - I was too excited to worry. When Dave, Jr. was born (seven months after 9/11), it was heartbreaking to know he would never know his dad. He looks so much like him and his personality is so similar.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? I see them at least twice a year. I hope to retire and change that soon.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? My favorite part of being a grandma is the special relationship I have with each of them. They know when they call me to talk about things that interest or excite them that I will listen to every word until they are tired of talking. It makes them feel special and me too.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? For me, it’s the distance between us. Also, as I get older, it’s getting harder and harder to play soccer with them!

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. My grandkids have made me laugh out loud so many times it’s hard to pick one. Dave, Jr. and family have been living in Brussels for the past three years. On one visit, he and I were watching a program on French TV. We didn’t understand the French, so we made up our own dialog for the show in English. We both laughed so hard we cried. Little Abby in her pink tutu and red bike helmet with dress-up sparkly plastic heels always makes me smile.

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? They don’t get a chance to visit often, but when they do we enjoy the many attractions for kids in St. Louis (one of the best zoos in the country). The teen and tween girls love to shop. We all enjoy sitting around and eating, talking, and playing games too. We also like to look through my photo albums.

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? I particularly enjoy spending one-on-one time with the kids when I visit. Patrick and I walk to a park with a stream and look for frogs and lizards. He loves to grow things, so, depending on the season, we walk to a nearby nursery and buy flowers to plant. When he’s at school I play store and beauty salon and read books with his little sister.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? I stay in touch by phone, Skype, email and snail mail. I make sure that I keep up with their ever-changing interests and passions and learn about them so we can talk. I send them articles and stories about things that interest them. I make sure that the birthday and holiday gifts I send are on their wish lists. Sometimes I send them surprises.  Actually, I am so passionate about maintaining the bond between my grandkids and I, I wrote a book about long distance grandparenting.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? I would like them to know about their family and where they came from, and to realize how important family is. I want my son David’s children to know who he was and how each of them resemble him in their own way. His wife is great and carries on traditions from before and keeps his pictures around the house.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? I’ll cheat and write two words: Love and Fun.

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? To accept what can’t be changed.

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma? I would advise her to start out early on the right foot with her grandbaby’s parents. Be someone they enjoy having around and respect their wishes and rules. Forming a strong and lasting bond with grandkids is so much more pleasant and easier when there is peace in the family.

Do you have a website or blog? What is it about? I have a blog at It’s all about the rewards and challenges of grandparenting from afar. There is information about and excerpts from my book “Love Across the Miles: How to Stay Close to Long Distance Grandchildren” available now on the Amazon Kindle and soon on other e-readers. I would love to share ideas and experiences with other long distance grandmas!