Being a grandparent is rather new to me. With only two grandchildren under seven, my experience is just barely blooming. My parents had many grandchildren by my present age. I was only fifteen when their first grandchild was born giving me the fortunate experience in my youth of simultaneously observing them as parents and grandparents.

One thing I learned through the many years of observation, is how much my parents cherished children and how they welcomed them in their home unbounded. Considering my family of four children lived with my parents for twelve years, and my brother’s family of eight children lived next door; I continued to witness countless interactions between my father and his grandchildren as an adult.

As typical with many households, our family tended to gather in the kitchen. What was unusual about ours, was my father’s remarkable ability to work at the kitchen table amidst complete chaos. Not only that, he often was the center of the action. My father, Syndicated Columnist Jack Anderson, seemed to embrace the commotion even with the lurking deadlines of 7-8 weekly columns, television and radio spots, and over 60 speaking engagements annually.

I decided to share a perspective of my father the public rarely witnessed; the point of view from a grandchild, written by my niece Meijken nearly 25 years ago. I believe sharing stories from a grandchild’s perspective can help paint a more authentic portrait of the person behind the public image.

Meijken, now a mother of eight, will likely become a grandparent herself in the near future, highlighting the importance of capturing ancestor stories to create a deeper connection between generations.

Written by Rachel Meijken Loveless (now Meijken Boone) while at BYU circa 1998 

I am the second of [Syndicated Columnist] Jack Anderson’s 37 grandchildren.  My memories of him begin in the late seventies, as I was born in ’76 and lived close by during my childhood.  I love my “Grandpa.”  He was the master of a house that was open to anyone and everyone – quite literally, for they didn’t lock their door in those days (still don’t).  In fact, if a visitor knocked and waited for an answer, they would likely be waiting a long time, as no one was accustomed to answering the door.

Friends, family, friends of friends or friends of family just walked in.  It was a self-serve kind of a place.  We children delighted in serving ourselves ice cream cones, bologna sandwiches, English muffins, and cold cereal.  Sometimes we even partook of Grandpa’s special Häagen-Dazs bars that were hidden in the top back of the freezer.  We were never scolded for it, though I did once see a disappointed look on his face when he arrived to eat one just after his box had been raided.

Grandpa never raised his voice at us.  In fact, the only raising of his voice I ever heard was when he called for my Grandmother, and it was in a tone that was simply trying to find her in a large house.  “Libby!”  His voice was strong, and it was kind.  I remember him smiling at me after calling for her.  No words, just a smile of genuine amusement.  At what he was amused I was not sure, but that smile was endearing.

 

The freezer was not the only place open to us.  We played in the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the basement, the closets.  Oh, the closets were our favorite places!  I can attest there were no skeletons in them, for we examined every corner, turned them into elevators and secret hideouts, putting on shoes and hiding amongst the suit pants.  In his office, too, we were welcome to wander.  I remember sitting at his desk and opening the drawers or reading the spines of the books on the shelves that lined the sunlit room.  If he entered and found me there, he would deepen his broadcasting voice and say, “Who’s sitting in my chair?”  Like a startled Goldilocks I would run out.  He watched me exit with that same amused smile.

My Grandpa wore a pink button-up shirt on occasion, with suspenders.  I loved the color pink but it was quizzical to me why my grandpa wore it!  Looking back, I recall that pink was an “in” color in the eighties.  I remember him jogging on his mini-trampoline in his dark colored dress socks and typical button-up shirt-pants-and-suspenders outfit, his eyes on the TV.  Usually, though, he sat when he watched TV – almost always the news – eating crackers and cheese.

My siblings and I were bewildered one evening to find him watching himself on television!  The cry went out, “Grandpa’s watching himself on TV!”  A crowd of grandchildren scampered into the family room and stopped dead.  Incredulously, we looked from him to the television and back at him.  How could he be in two places at once?  Again, that smile of amusement.

I remember the kitchen table.  It was oval shaped pine surrounded by six matching Windsor chairs – nothing fancy.  The usual spread was four or five layers of newspapers, all out, and it seemed that somehow Grandpa read them all at the same time.

Once, when I was about ten years old, I knocked on my neighbor’s door in Vienna, Virginia, to see if my friend could play.  Her mother answered, not with the usual “Hello,” but with, “Can you believe what your grandpa did?  He could have been arrested!”

I was bewildered and asked her what my grandpa had done.  Apparently, he had entered the Congressional Office Building with gun parts in his pockets, had walked right through the metal detectors, and had gone into the restroom and put the weapon together.  He then approached an acquaintance of his in the Congressman’s office, placed the gun on his desk, and said merely, “You need to update your security.”  I had only a slight clue at age ten the amount of courage that must have taken.  I have often wondered since what his Plan B was.  But I learned that day that my old cracker-eating Grandpa was someone who dared to do right.

My Grandpa carried himself confidently, as a man of character and clear conscience does.  He was a “do-gooder,” but not the usual kind.  He fought for the public welfare, but not in the usual way.  He was a defender of the Constitution, but not as a military leader.  In his own words, he was a “watchdog” for the American people, a voice heard through countless newspaper articles and radio and television broadcasts.  His career was more than a paycheck, and more than a mission.  It was a passion.  He lived what Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  To me he is both a hero and a loving grandfather.  I will forever be grateful for his example that One can make a diifference.  I will forever be grateful to be his granddaughter.