Camping with our Granddaughter

Camping with our Granddaughter

It’s been five years since I’ve written about the annual trek my wife Ruth and I make to Young
State Park in Michigan to camp with our long-time friends. For those who have come to live in
Holland Christian Homes since then, let me explain what that is. Before we married, Ruth had
become part of a group of active single men and women in Michigan, where she lived at the
time. They rented a gym every Friday evening during the winter to play volleyball and, in the
summer, they would sometimes backpack through the mountains of Wyoming or on the Bruce
Trail in Ontario.

Eventually the members of “the group” married and settled down. A few moved too far away to
get together for volleyball, and backpacking wasn’t easy with small children. Some hardly saw
each other for a few years. Then in 1988 we started the tradition of camping together for a week
each year. This has been our way of keeping the ties and watching each other’s children grow
up. At first there were eleven families who came together, but now – 28 summers later – there
are seven families still keeping it up. But the group has actually gotten bigger. Some of the
little ones who used to move through the campground on the back of their parent’s bicycles have
not only become hairdressers, chemists, nurse practitioners, lawyers, teachers, farmers and
engineers, they have also become parents. There is a whole new generation of campers.

And the most important one of them all joined us this summer. Our first grandchild, Nora
Grace, arrived safely into the world last September. Now, in July, with her at 10 months of age,
her parents brought her along to camp on the site right next to grandpa and grandma. What a
delight that was! How precious to have her close by on the beach and to take her for rides in the
bicycle trailer. Feeding her ice cream was such fun. And she was walking already! It was so
amazing to watch her toddle from picnic table to lawn chair and back again between us. But the
best memory of all came on the afternoon she decided she was going to head out on her own to
visit grandpa. I sensed something great was going to happen when she caught sight of me on our
campsite 25 feet away. There was a certain look in her eye and a big smile on her face that
showed me this girl was full of confidence and determination. This little champion started out
on her cross-country trip with her hands in the air for balance, and lifting her little knees high to
deal with the uneven ground. She had the kind of support and encouragement that makes
Olympic athletes overflow with gratitude. With her mother and father cheering from behind and
with grandpa and grandma doing the same in front, she knew she had a great audience. Others,
who were just walking by, joined in the fun. They could tell with one glance that she’ s a winner
and they were all on her side. And so, with only one brief stumble five feet before the finish
line, she made it on her own all the way into my arms. The crowd went wild.

What can I say? Oh, the fishermen in the group were great. Once again, they caught enough for
the whole group to have a fish fry together. Catching up with all the friends was everything one
could hope for, and the weather was better than it had been for several years. But the memory of
Nora Grace toddling my way is etched into my mind more deeply than anything else. Through
25 years of ministry in several congregations, it’s been my privilege to visit with many new
parents. It always gave me a special pleasure to share their joy and to pray for a blessing on
them together. But it sure is different for me now that I’m a grandparent. It’s hard to explain the
special exuberance my little granddaughter brings out in me. I just have to think about her and I
break out into a big grin. Too bad she lives six hours away.

I really do love working here at Holland Christian Homes. Perhaps the love and concern that so
many residents have for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will touch me even more
now than before. It comes up in so many conversations. Not many things can be more important
to those of us who are getting older than that we leave behind generations who have learned to
handle life well. How happy we are when they do well; how concerned when they are sick. We
know they will need to find their way just like we did. Just like us they will also have to learn
how to deal with what goes on around them and inside of them, for better and for worse. We
pray that our grandchildren’ s parents may have more wisdom than we did as they love and guide
these little ones. Our love for our children and grandchildren, our concern, our
heartbreak, our hopes for them are only a small reflection of the heart that the
Father in heaven has for us. Our understanding of that love just deepens as life
goes on, and that’s the way it should be.

Pastor H. Bruinsma.