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Yesterday was also Grandparents’ Day. I have a soft spot for that day because when I was in the third grade, I guess there had been some sort of grade-wide or school-wide announcement that to recognize the holiday, your grandparents were welcome to come sit in on class on a particular afternoon; mine were the only ones who showed up to Ms. Nichols’ classroom. These were my mother’s parents, who were really the only grandparents I ever had.

As my mother tells it, as seniors her parents came to swap the personalities each had embodied during their child-raising years. My Grandpa had been the fearmongering disciplinarian of my Mom’s childhood (imposingly tall, his carriage had borne the obscure menace of a Hitchcock villain) while Grandma was the good cop, the parent you’d go to after the other one had said no, or the parent you’d run and hide behind when the other was chasing you down for a spanking. As I knew them, though, Grandpa was a peaceable, lovable giant and Grandma was a rusty, old broad who could turn on you in an ashy-tipped flick of one of her Vantages.

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