I had a thought this morning that I was not the first to be called  “Grandpa J” in my family. It’s what my three grandkids now call me. I don’t remember distinguishing between my Grandfathers Hancher and Johnston as “Grandpa H” and “Grandpa J” but I also didn’t necessarily use any other terms of endearment. My wife prefers to be called “Nona” instead of Grandma, for example. Her kids called her mother “Grammy.” My grandkids have at least four sets of grandparents, so it’s a challenge to know which ones they are referring to in conversation. It must be more confusing for us than it is for them.

As I think about it, the adults around me growing up called my special male elders “Grandpa Burt,” “Great Grandpa Bill,” and “Great Grandpa Ross. I didn’t necessarily refer to Bill and Ross that way – they were both just “grandpa” to me. However, I never had to contend with multiple marriages. My son also had “Grandpa Phil,” on his mother’s side and “Grandma Cathy,” my mother. In addition, there was Phil’s divorce that resulted in “Grandma Mary,” and his second wife known affectionately as simply “Margie.”

The “Big D” can make a mess of tradition. However, for kids, it means more grandparents and therefore more presents. I can remember celebrating at three different homes on Christmas Day to satisfy my first wife’s separated family. Our son, of course, saw it as perfectly normal, collecting a trunkful of gifts and moving on for more. I think it helped him develop an exceptional memory, trying to keep track of all his loot. My grandson has even more of a challenge, living part-time with one parent each week along with multiple divorces with grandparents and great grandparents. It’s Modern Family for him!

My Grandfather Johnston (the original Grandpa J) was born in 1896 and would have been 125-years old this year. He died two days after my 41st birthday, although I never made that association until just now looking through my genealogy charts. My son was 18 when he lost this great grandfather at age 96. His other great grandfather Hancher died 6 years earlier at age 91. It’s too bad, with me as an adoptee of the Johnston name, that we don’t have this degree of genetic longevity since both of my adopted parents also lived to be 93. Biologically, I’m not really “Grandpa J” at all, but rather “Grandpa B” for Banister.