Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

Grandparents can give some of the best advice—well, until their wisdom goes off the rails a bit. 

Over the years, I’ve heard advice about how to navigate situations for family members. How to properly store bread and the need to make sure to pack extra clothing when heading out of town for a few days—well at least a few extra articles of clothing. 

Growing up we spent a lot of time at my grandparents for long weekends. Shortly after arriving, my one grandma would frequently ask us some variation of “did you pack extra socks and underwear.” As soon as we replied that we made sure to pack extra underwear, she would always give us a smile and a nod of approval as she told us it is important to always be prepared. 

I always found it a bit odd that she asked a teenager about their socks and underwear, but never asked if we packed an extra shirt or pants. After all, I didn’t know too many teenagers who still wet the bed and would need to have an extra pair of underwear laying around. 

One day I made the mistake of asking why she was so concerned about me packing extra boxers and socks, while not caring about our other clothing. Her response was one only a grandparent could so eloquently provide.

“Well if you ever end up in jail you might need a clean pair of socks and underwear. I don’t care about the other clothing, because they will give you something else to wear when you get checked in.” 

She went on to tell me that wearing a prison shirt and pants that another inmate wore wouldn’t be nearly as disgusting as wearing their undergarments (I also never had the privilege of testing out her theory of jail).

The ironic part about this lesson was that at the end of January I spent four days and three nights in the Twin Cities at the Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention. I was planning to come back extremely late on Friday night as my oldest daughter had a basketball tournament early in the morning on Saturday, but the threat of inclement weather forced me to stay another night and get up at 3 a.m. after the snowplows did their work on the roads. 

Even though I didn’t pack extra clothes for an additional day in the Twin Cities, wouldn’t you know that tucked in the back of my suitcase was an extra pair of boxers and socks. I guess some life lessons really stick with you over the years. 

I learned a lot from the Koenen side growing up and another lesson my grandma taught me was that if you lose the twist tie for a bread bag, you can just tie a knot in the bag. Not only will this keep the bread fresh, but it will also provide hours of entertainment when a younger sibling or cousin was unable to untie your knot to open the bread. 

If you happen to poke a hole in an inflatable toy just find some Duct Tape. The gray tape can fix just about anything and a quick patch of Duct Tape over the hole will allow the fun to continue as you float in an inner tube on water or go down a snow hill.

Sound advice right? Well that was until we learned that if you leave the Duct Tape on the tube you will tip your hand that the hole was caused by you. In order to avoid this awkward encounter, just take the Duct Tape off before putting the inflatable tube back in the shed. This will result in people just assuming the hole was created by an act of God and not some carelessness of a stupid teenager. 

I loved baseball growing up and was a catcher in high school. That meant I would sometimes have to throw the ball not where my teammate was, but where they were going on the run. In order to teach me how to properly lead a person with a baseball, my grandpa gave us some baseballs and tennis balls and sent us in the backyard in an attempt to drill pocket gophers running through his yard. The lesson was two-fold as he not only got us out of the house for a bit, but also put the fear of God in some critters in his backyard.

To this day, I swear I slightly brushed one pocket gopher, but no one was there to witness it. Otherwise my life as an exterminator was pretty nonexistent.

One of the final lessons that has stuck with me through the years concerned gravity. For example if you throw a ball straight up in the air at a Frisbee stuck in the tree the ball could come straight down and hit you in the head. However, if you are prepared for the ball to come straight down you will likely miss the Frisbee and the ball will go into the neighbors yard nearly every time.

Speaking of Frisbees in the tree, while a ladder or step stool may be the most efficient way to get it down from the tree, throwing a ball at it in the tree and knocking it down will provide hours of frustratingly fun entertainment.

Grandparents can be the best for younger kids, even if their intended lessons may not leave quite the mark they were intending.