In honor of Father’s Day, M Living tracked down three local grandfathers who offer their wisdom, energy and love in one of the most joy-filled roles of their lives.
Dumpster diving added to Papaw’s talents
Ethan Laeng, 13, has always known his Papaw was cool. He built a fort for Ethan in his basement in North Ridgeville, Ohio. But Ethan faced a quandary once Papaw, Gary Scadden, decided to move closer to Ethan and his family in 2016, what would happen to the fort?
“I remember him saying to me, ‘Papaw, you’re going to need to get a truck to bring the fort too,’” Gary Scadden said. “I told him we wouldn’t need to, since we would build a better fort for him.” And build they did! The two BFFs dumpster dived for a few months as Gary’s new home in Perrysburg was being built.
“We scavenged 2x4s, and large cardboard boxes out of the construction site’s waste. The new fort is built out of a frame of 2x4s with cardboard walls and ceiling. I also reinforced the ceiling with more 2x4s in order to turn the fort into a place for extra storage,” Gary said.
“I think the part we treasure the most,” Elizabeth Laeng, Ethan’s mom, said, “is the Christmas tree lights on the inside ceiling of the fort. They can be turned on and off with the click of a switch!”
Papaw has been Ethan’s best friend since Ethan was born in 2006, which meant that Gary and his wife made weekly, if not several times a week trips, to Northwest Ohio to watch Ethan grow up. “The drive was getting to my wife and I. And once I retired we decided just to move closer to Elizabeth and her family. Besides, Elizabeth and Eric had added a daughter Mackenzie, to the mix in 2012. We wanted to be a part of her life too.”
What started out as just attending a few baseball games to cheer for Ethan quickly turned into an honorary “Biggest Cheerleader” position for Scadden.
Elizabeth says, “Oh, he’s at every game now, with his air horn, siren and cowbell cheering for the team. That’s what makes him the Perrysburg Sting’s (a traveling baseball team) biggest fan!”
Nearly every day after school, Ethan and his fellow teenage friends walk around the corner to Papaw’s house to hang out in the fort. Every once in a while, sister Mackenzie is allowed access.
So, what makes Gary Scadden the best grandpa in the world? Could it be the dumpster diving? Or the relentless noise making at games? We think it’s the unfettered love he surrounds Ethan, Mackenzie, Eric and Elizabeth with on a daily basis. Hats off to you Papaw!
Being a grandpa is on par for this retired educator
Richard Jackson is a busy man. When we first reached out to him for this interview, he was delivering a meal to his daughter who was convalescing from an early morning outpatient procedure. Yet busy isn’t the best adjective to describe Richard Jackson. Grateful is a stronger one.
“Kids fill my heart,” Jackson said. As a retired junior high school teacher, elementary and junior high school administrator and assistant school superintendent, Jackson said that being around kids gives him a heightened buzz of energy and gratefulness. “The give and take of a dialog with someone who’s ‘getting it’ is amazing. I love watching children learn.”
“Our first grandbaby Brandon was born on my wife’s birthday nearly 23 years ago. The second one followed nearly six years later,” said Jackson, who worked for Toledo Public Schools. “He’s a really special kid because we had so much time with him in his early years,” Jackson’s wife Yolanda added. “We were able to take great trips together. We went to the west coast, to New York City where my family is from, as well as regular trips to Florida when he and Richard would spend the days playing golf.”
The saving of things
“Brandon is a +2 handicap golfer,” Richard beamed. “He’s been fortunate enough to start out learning golf at the age of four and kept it up through high school and his tenure at The Ohio State University, where he will graduate with a degree in professional golf management in June.
“Inverness Golf Club, Chris Ellis, Toledo Minority Golf Association and Milton Carswell, Jr. paved the way for Brandon’s success in the sport. As a matter of fact, Inverness was kind enough to send Brandon to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia while Brandon was a college student,” Richard continued. “He had access to the players’ practice sessions days before the tournament. Also, at the Honda Classic in Florida we would get there early in the morning in order to follow Tiger around during his practice round. What an honor and privilege it was to be able to do that with a high school student/ grandson.”
Richard and Yolanda Jackson are grandparents to three other grandchildren. Brandon has a sister Jordyn who is nearly six years younger. And the Jacksons are going through what they call “part two” of their joyous grandparenting duties with their son’s children, Jacob, 7, and Caleb, 4.
“Being involved with all of our grandchildren has been very important to us. We are passing along the traditions of the holidays as well as the values we all share as a teacher/parent /grandpa and grandma. While the kids get a lot from us, it’s not half as much as we get from having time with each of them. We are truly blessed,” Jackson concluded.
Learning the art of grandparenting
Aaron Bivins is well-known as one of “the best” artists in the region painting in acrylics, watercolor and oils. He’s also known as “the best gaga” in the region too, according to his two grandkids, Lilliana (Lily), 6 and Daniel, 4.
“When Lily was born, my daughter Sarah and my wife Ronnie were both working as RNs in obstetrics at Toledo Hospital and my son-in-law Jessie was working in corrections. I had recently retired, and I was the obvious choice to handle the babysitting and childcare duties for three-month-old Lily. About four years after I retired Ronnie retired and now the childcare team is complete.”
“I was hands-on all the way with the diapering, the feedings and providing entertainment for the day for Lily during her earliest years. As the kids began to grow, Ronnie and I worked hand-in-hand tackling all of the tough baby jobs. We both had to pray that the terrible twos’ and other developmental idiosyncrasies would pay off quickly. You know what, though,” Bivins continues, “I wouldn’t give up this responsibility for the world. The special attachment I have to Lily and Daniel are something I could have never achieved in my life before they were born. I’m very happy to be their GaGa.”
Days of Joy
No two days are ever the same for Aaron and Ronnie. They take special care to get the children back to their family home for bedtime. Before that, they are bathed, dressed in their PJs and ready for “calm down” before being put to bed. Sarah pulls 12-hour shifts three days a week at Toledo Hospital. Consequently, the mornings are hectic at 6:30 am when the other grandmother, Carmen, does the majority of the work before Lily and Daniel are off to school. The Bivins’ don’t get involved with the care of the kids until around 3:45 pm when Aaron and Ronnie get Lily off the school bus. Grandmother Carmen gets Daniel off his bus at noon and cares for him the rest of the evening.
Once back at the Bivins’ home Aaron and Ronnie feed Lily, give her a bath and ensure she completes her homework. Homework becomes the priority of the day for Lily and her progress is documented on a form provided by her teacher. Once a week the kids attend a program at church that is filled with fun and learning.
Around 7 pm Lily is returned to her home where “calm down” begins. Lights are turned down low as she and Daniel snuggle with one grandparent on the sofa and/or the loveseat. The TV is on, but everyone must be quiet because the volume is set very low. Lily will read Aaron or Ronnie a book before being tucked in bed. Then the Bivins return home for some much-needed rest as the routine will start all over again.
Side note: You may remember Aaron Bivins from his football days at UT. He received a full-ride scholarship back in the mid-1970s when he played defensive linebacker. Aaron holds the record for highest number of tackles in a season since 1977. In ’76 and ’77, Bivins was named Defensive Player of the Year in the MidAmerican Conference and MVP of the team. In 2006, Aaron Bivins was inducted into the UT Varsity Hall of Fame.