Smelly Socks: Learning from Grandpa

By Anita Spisak
June 14, 2012 at 1:14 a.m.
Updated June 29, 2012 at 1:29 a.m.

With Father's Day approaching, I've been thinking of my own father and I've come to the conclusion that I think he's secretly always wanted a boy.

Please don't misunderstand me, he was and continues to be very happy with me as his only child, but he grew up with three brothers and two sisters on a farm and near a forest and always hoped he could pass on the "guy" things he learned as a boy to his future son.

So you can only imagine how he treats my boys, Adam and Charlie. Basically, they can do no wrong and his house and land is their domain. When the boys are visiting, he makes sure to leave a few "chores" for his helpers. So with their Black and Decker toy chain saws, plastic axes and wooden tools, they cut down trees and build things.

Adam builds ranches out of sticks and toy horses, and Charlie pretty much just gets dirty. They think they're helping grandpa and he's getting a kick out of watching them. He loves to see the joy on their faces as it mirrors his own.

Growing up in the city, I didn't have that nature experience like the boys do and, to be honest, I'm not sure I would've liked it all that much, being a city girl and all. But having boys, I now understand their need to get outside at least once a day, rain or shine, and their need to gather and build. I only wish that everyone (boys and girls) have a father, grandfather, brother or uncle to show them that there's more to life than just video games, computers and TV the way my dad shows my boys.

Most of the time, when we're in Chicago, the boys live the city/suburban life. School, swim class, karate lessons, trips to museums etc. But when we visit with my parents up in the north woods of Wisconsin, that's when they become "boys."

They dig in the mud, cut down trees with my dad, gather sticks, race trucks in the dirt and build fires outside (with supervision) that could rival some college bonfires. They come home dirty, smelly and with bugs in their hair, dirt underneath their fingernails, and mud marks on their knees and faces from spending pretty much all day outside.

And my dad is right there with them, passing on his love of all things wild and natural to the boys. He loves the outdoors and in the summertime, from sun up to sun down, Dad can be found milling around in the forest on the six-acre property that my parents now call home.

My mother usually has to use a whistle to call him in for lunch and dinner. When my boys are in the city, they long to go up north and be the smelly, dirty and disheveled boys that I think they're truly meant to be.

So on that note, to all fathers, grandfathers and soon to be fathers of boys and girls alike, Johanna and I would like to wish you a very Happy Father's Day.

Anita lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two boys and two dogs, one of whom is a girl. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at



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