YOU & YOUR CHILD

Local woman writes book for long-distance grandparents


Carolyn Brooks' book, "Far-Out Grandparents," was inspired by her own experience with her grandchildren.

KATHRYN WALDECK/Special to The Sun
Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2003 at 11:52 p.m.

Zachary Brooks' relationship with his grandmother started with a postcard.

Zachary was born May 26, 1986 in West Point, N.Y., the same day his grandparents were traveling out West.

Since she couldn't hold her newborn grandson in person, Carolyn Brooks sent Zachary a psychic cuddle in the form of a postcard from Cheyenne, Wyo.

"It was just a picture of the hotel we were staying in but I wrote about how happy we were that he was born, and how happy we were to have him in the family," she recalls.

Today that postcard is filed away in Zachary's baby book. It's a memento for Zachary, but it was an omen for Brooks, who recently authored "Far-Out Grandparents!," a book chock-full of more than 700 creative, fun tips for staying in touch with distant grandchildren.

"When the grandchildren were younger they were living all over the world," recalls Carolyn, whose son David Brooks is a career military man who moved his family around the country. "We were so thrilled to have grandchildren that we would try to come up with all kinds of ideas to stay close to them and to let them know us."

She asked other grandparents what they did, took notes, and eventually morphed the tips into a book. Her book includes a large section of activities to enhance communication using technology. Then follow lots of fun ideas for enjoying quality time with grandchildren.

She breaks her suggestions into sections:

  • Being a "grandpreserver" means teaching your grandchild about his family and where he comes from.

  • "Grandprotectors" teach grandchildren about faith, hope and love.

  • Being a "grandpromoter" means helping to promote your grandchildren's education, teaching vocabulary, speaking, listening, writing and reading skills.

  • "Grandpraisers," she says, find ways to tell grandchildren they are wonderful. They show grandchildren they are loved by their actions.

  • "Grandpreparers" help grandchildren learn to manage their money, make career choices and preserve natural resources.

    Her husband says she practiced what she preaches.

    "The grandchildren have grown up loving both of us, but her mostly," says Hugh Brooks, a retired military man and pastor. "She has certainly practiced all of it, and it works. They adore her."

    Their son now lives in Carlisle, Pa., where he is chairman of the Department of Strategic Planning at the U.S. Army War College. Zachary is now 17 and a high school senior. He recently completed requirements for Eagle Scout. "He just called to tell us last night," says Carolyn Brooks. "We're hoping to go up for the ceremony."

    Zachary's sister Emily, 19, attends Shippensburg (Pa.) University, where she writes articles for a teen magazine. She sometimes sends down her stories for her grandfather's feedback.

    "Today, what is more prominent than when I wrote the book is the computer and the (instant messaging)," says Brooks, 67, who first learned to use a computer seven years ago. "Just about every evening I can say a few words to my grandchildren: 'how was your day, what's going on?' To me, that has become very important."

    Brooks says her best tips are to buy a stock of cards in January, address them with words of encouragement, and send a card monthly to each of your grandchildren. She also suggests you send stamped, large manila envelopes addressed to yourself, so that your grandchildren can mail you artwork and stories monthly.

    "Then you can turn the artwork into placemats and frame it so your grandkids see it when they visit you," says Brooks.

    She includes tips related to Christianity and teaching morals. Brooks said her faith has been a big part of her life and she expects it to be part of her grandchildrens' lives as well.

    "It helps young people stay on the straight and narrow," says Brooks. "That's especially important today, when there are so many things that can distract young people."

    She said last year the extended Brooks family couldn't get together at Christmas. The Pennsylvania relatives took a family photo huddled on their front porch on Christmas Eve e-mailed it to Hugh and Carolyn.

    "So we `saw' them on Christmas Eve," said Carolyn.

    The couple say they have so much love to give that they have "adopted" about 10 more long-distance grandchildren of their beloved friends and former colleagues.

    "One of them was in a car accident the other day, and she couldn't reach her parents so she called Hugh," said Carolyn. "She was crying. Hugh had to perk her up."

    Whether your grandkids live on the other coast or the other side of town, you'll be able to use Brooks' ideas to communicate your love and presence in your grandchildren's lives.

    Julie Garrett can be contacted at (352) 374-5049 or write to garretj@gvillesun.com.

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