Grandpa Steve and Gramma Sandy

The gang out for dinner at PF Changs. Chinese food - yum!

On April 14 of this year my younger son Mickey and Sarah Mabry got married. The ceremony took place in Michigan which is where Sarah is from and her family still lives. Because of constraints imposed by the US Army there wasn't an opportunity to make it a big event. Mickey could only get a few days of leave, and even then the exact dates were on short notice. After a couple of discussions with Mickey, Sandy and I decided not to attend. We all agreed that the money it would cost for us to fly there for a very short ceremony would be better put to use helping them to set up their new home together. But since we had missed the wedding we were excited when we found out that they could come to Boise for a visit this summer before Mickey left on deployment.

Since Sarah has a baby daughter, Ava, we not only got a new daughter-in-law out of the process, but a granddaughter as well. It was a little strange to suddenly find yourself one day being a grandparent. I suspect it is a little different when you have the long lead up of a pregnency to get ready for the idea. While grandchildren are certainly fun, everyone thinks that THEY can't be a grandparent. Grandparents are old! But we became grandparents "by acquisition" so it was all kind of sudden. But we were really looking forward to the visit as a chance to get to know our granddaughter and learn about being grandparents.

Ava and Grandpa Steve

Mickey was slated to transfer to a unit in Germany near the end of the year. But his current unit, the 104th Vertical Engineer Company, 62 Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade got orders to deploy to Afghanistan this summer. Given the choice, Mickey delayed his transfer to Germany so that he could deploy with the unit that he had been in for the past two years. That meant that he would be leaving for Afghanistan in August. This would be his second deployment there. He spent five months in Afghanistan in 2008 stationed at FOB Shank in Logar Province, southwest of Kabul. This time he will likely be gone for a full year. His unit will be stationed in northern Afghanistan in Balkh Provinice near Mazar-e-Sharif. At least that is a quieter part of the country compared to Kandahar in the south and the eastern provinces along the border with Pakistan's FATA. But it is still a war zone so of course I will be worrying the entire time. The silver lining though was that Mickey got two weeks leave before he left on deployment. He and Sarah decided to spend it is Boise so we were looking forward to the visit.

Laney is still our baby. An 80lb baby, but our baby.

It was an excellent visit too. Mickey and Sarah and Ava were in Boise for twelve days. We had a chance to get together several times. One evening they all came over to our house for a dinner on our patio. Another night we went out to Bella Aquila, a nice Italian restaurant in Eagle. It was a beautiful evening and we had dinner outside on their patio right by the Boise River. Afterwards we went back to our place and the grownups sat in the back yard and visited while Ava and Laney were able to roam around the yard and tire themselves out. On the last night before they left we had a similar evening. Everyone drove downtown to PF Changs, a Chinese restaurant in Bodo (downtown Boise). It was only a few blocks from where I work so I walked down and met everyone there. Anyone who knows me can understand just how excited I was about Chinese food. But everyone else wanted to go and I still had a lot of fun at dinner.Afterwards we went back to our house again and hung out in the back yard. I think Mickey and Sarah really enjoyed the cool weather in Boise compared to the hot weather in Killeen. It was only in the nineties here!

Hey! That's my soda! Or at least it was.

Ava just turned one year old at the beginning of this month. Like any one year old she was always busy and into everything. She was very curious and anything left lying around loose seemed to end up in her hands and eventually in her mouth. So you always had to keep an eye on her. It's been a long time since our house was baby proof (although we always put away anything fragile when Mickey comes over since he tends to play with things and break them). But Ava was a really good baby. She almost never fussed or cried the whole time she was visiting. She kept herself busy whether we were out for dinner at a restaurant or just sitting in the back yard. She got along well with Laney too. They have two dogs of their own so she is used to being around them. An old dog, Laney wasn't quite sure what to make of this new puppy. Every once in a while Laney would give us a look that was the dog equivalent of rolling her eyes. But dogs and little kids seem to be made for each other so they did fine together. Laney made sure that she still got some attention even though most of the time people were paying attention to Ava. She would poke us with her nose until she got petted or climb up in the chair with us. Mickey remarked that she seemed to think that she was an only child. Yeah, pretty much.

Ava also became best friends with Auntie Shannon. Those two were always together while Ava was over. Excellent practice for Shannon. No doubt she'll be chasing after a whole pack of babies of her own someday soon. And she thinks college is hard work!

Mickey and Sarah relax on the patio.

As always the visit was over too soon. The clan had to head back to Texas. Mickey will be deploying in mid-August and of course that means a year of worry for me. With Tim having done two deployments (one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan) and Mickey having done one to Afghanistan, I know what to expect. I'll be counting the days till he is back in country.

While he is gone Sarah and Ava will be living with her mom, who recently moved to Killeen. Sometime after Mickey gets back from Afghanistan he will get his transfer and they will all move to Germany. Even the dogs.

So being a grandparent turns out to be pretty cool and doesn't neccessarily mean that you are getting old. It has lots of advantages, like being able to spoil your grandchildren, and, ah, others that I forget right now. Seems like I am forgetting a lot of stuff lately. I will probably remember them later, right after my nap.

Just because I'm a grandparent doesn't mean that I'm old. But some people are greatgrandparents now. Now THAT is OLD.

Additional pictures

Ava and Auntie Shannon