This week the last of our grandchildren, the caboose, Collin Slade Gros, graduates from high school in Bridge City. There was always something a little sad to me as each of our previous four grandchildren completed high school. I’m sure I will feel the same when my buddy Collin gets his diploma. Over the years we have been close, starting way back when he was a Tee Ball player. We spent many hours together going to and from baseball practice, lessons and sitting around talking baseball and watching sports events on television. He always was a student of the game and could give me the box scores, batting averages and who was the all time leader in hits, home runs, stolen bases and the ERA of past and present pitchers.

As a Little Leaguer and all the way to Pony he was always a winner. He learned a lot about being a team member when a leg injury in his junior year hampered his efforts to play as much as he would have liked to. If he was disappointed at the hand dealt him his senior year of baseball, he made the most of it and never complained. He was proud of whatever accomplishments he had and his contributions to his team. He’s a very loyal youngster.

Blue-Eyed Bill

Blue-Eyed Bill

Out of our five grandchildren, Collin is the most different. He’s the only left hander and the only blue eyed one surrounded by a bunch of dark brown eyes. Over the years I’ve given all the grandkids nicknames. In fact, I tend, for some unknown reason, to nickname everyone I’m close to. I guess it personalizes our relationship. I’m sure other folks do the same.

Anyway, I started calling Collin “Blue-eyed Bill” when he was just a little guy. In fact, when he was two years old, nearing three, he locked me out of the house. As I tried desperately to find a way in to no avail, I finally talked him into pulling up a chair, standing on it so he could remove a chain lock and let me in. Even though I had gotten desperate it was funny in the end and he found it that way also. I wrote an award winning column titled, “Snookered by Blue Eyed Bill” so we could remember the occasion.

I also was in the habit of calling him “Billy Jack” when he was a little guy. Once I took him to the rodeo and told him to sit there near the bull riding pens and said that I’d be right back. As a joke I told him if they called his name, it will be his turn to ride one of those bulls. As luck would have it, the announcer said, “Billy Jack, you’re up next.” When I got back to Collin he was walking towards the chute. I had to explain to him that they were calling another cowboy named Billy Jack. I did let him try to catch a calf in the arena. His mother Karen had bought him a brand new outfit for the rodeo and after chasing the calf and rolling in the dirt he was unrecognizable. He didn’t catch a calf but we laughed about knowing we would catch hell when we got home.

Over the years, we’ve spent some valuable time together. He’s a nice, polite kid that everyone enjoys being around. Raised by a single mom, I was always glad to be around to help guide him. He has a great mother who always saw to it that her three boys enjoyed all the pleasures the other children enjoyed. In some way, that might be the hardest lesson for Billy Jack to learn. When you’re grown material things don’t come easy. He’ll have to realize that in the adult world it takes hard work and dedication to get ahead. My hope is that he will put education first and seek a professional career that will advance his chance to succeed in life. There are no guarantees and it’s not easy but as long as he avoids the pitfalls and works to accomplish his goal good things will happen.

For me, I’ve been fortunate to have been around my grandkids during their growing up years. It’s been rewarding. I’m a proud grandparent who they all refer to as “Poppa.” Someday, Collin will look back on his childhood and realize how fortunate he was to be surrounded by people who loved him and provided for him.

His mom and dad are loving parents who want only the best for him. Having been a parent and grandparent, the latter carries a different kind of pride. There is no sin in being a proud grandparent. We should cut them more slack. Collin will always be special to me and his grandmother. Phyl and I both feel a little sadness along with our pride this graduation year of 2013.

To Billy Jack, we wish a long, successful and happy life. Someday you’ll look back and realize the value of the great years you just completed and the people you traveled with during that short stretch down life’s highway.

As for this old granddad, those enjoyable years flew by much too quickly. I’m just glad I was here to share them and help when I could.