A Tribute to My Grandparents

Editor’s note: In honor of Grandparents Day, Generations United is collecting stories of memorable moments with a grandparent. The story below is from our Grandparents Day partner, Johnny Prill!

Johnny Prill with his grandchild.

Over the years, I’m always asked what inspired me to write the song, “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa,” the official song of National Grandparents Day.

The inspiration stemmed from my time with my grandparents and the value of volunteer work.

My earliest memory for my grandparents was not how nice they were, but how old they seemed to be. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized how much they loved me by the large amount of spoiling that took place.

When my parents would take my three brothers, five sisters and me to visit my maternal grandparents they always seemed to have an endless supply of candy, pop, cookies, and love. My family was lucky as we were able to visit often; my grandparents only lived approximately 25 miles away just outside of Harbor Beach, Michigan.

I was probably 10 years old when I realized how much I appreciated them. Their light grey pickup truck in my parents’ driveway would mean a break from whatever chores or projects we were working on at the time.

As the third oldest child in a family of 9, I clowned around a lot to get more of my grandparent’s attention over my siblings. That is until I started playing accordion, then my family and friends wanted to listen to me play.

I enjoyed spending time with my grandparents, not just because of the attention they gave me, but I also loved their stories.

During our times together, they talked about the way things used to be. I remember thinking how times have changed and how difficult it must have been for them growing up.

My grandparents owned an Antique Shop and they would tell us about the items in their shop. Grandpa would show us how some of the items would work. When they received new items in their shop it was always a very exciting visit.

Johnny Prill introducing his “Ho Ho” song with his grandchildren.

As a teenager, I learned there was nothing my grandparents had not seen, no matter what I was going through. They understood and always offered advice.

That’s the power grandparents have: the ability to look at a situation from all angles. Their wisdom was always supportive and reassuring, especially in difficult times.

An example of that wisdom and power was that one time my grandpa asked me to teach him to play the accordion. He was 70 years old at the time.

Even though I taught him a little about music, he ended up teaching me a great deal about life. He showed me that if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. Age has no boundaries.

Looking back on those times with my grandparents makes me realize why “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa” was so easy for me to write. (It only took me 15 minutes.)

I also know why I’ve enjoyed entertaining residents at local nursing homes — especially at one in particular, where I’ve played music for them once a month for over 30 years.

I wrote the song and enjoyed my time with the elders because they are our nation’s grandparents. Over the years, I met a lot of interesting grandparents.

My wife and I are blessed to joined that group. We are the proud grandparents of five beautiful grandchildren; our sixth grandchild will be born in October 2017.

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