Meet Our Fab Five

It’s the day after Grandparents Day and I’m dedicating this blog to the five finalists in our 2011 Grandparents Day Contest. Before I discuss them, however, I first want to thank everyone who shared their family story, as well as those who voted for their favorites. To say the response to our contest was enthusiastic would be an understatement.

Now I’d like to introduce our Fab Five, the finalists in this year’s contest. Their entries forged ahead of more than 2,000 others, a stunning accomplishment in any venue, to remain in the running for our Grand Prize. By reaching our contest finals, they’ll each receive a $100 Visa gift card. Best of all, on September 22, at Life@50+ AARP’s National Event & Expo in Los Angeles, it will be our great pleasure to announce a Grand Prize winner from this elite collection of family bards.

This year we saw a dramatic jump in the number of video entries, two of which made it into our top five:

Granddaughter Reilly Simmons, of Cincinnati, Ohio, put together a whimsical, loving video tribute (“My Grandma, Mimi”) featuring a very special vacation with her grandmother. From the images to the soundtrack, her entry sparkled. I’m still chuckling at some of the moments in her video, especially how creative all the grandkids were in applying sunscreen. Click here to see Reilly’s entry.

In “I’m Just Beginning to Understand,” another video entry, daughter and new mother Lisa Larson, of Abbotsford, Wisconsin, tells a story of how being a parent helped her to better understand her own parents. She discovered the common thread in their lives is love. Combining still images with a video clip, Lisa’s entry is both thoughtful and touching. I think you’ll enjoy the scene toward the end, where her two daughters ride on the power lawn mower with their grandfather. A lovely giggle in the background as they drive by on the mower speaks volumes. Click on this link to watch it.

Most of our entries were essays, where the written word brought so many family stories to life:

Grandmother Telesa Wadsworth, from Odon, Indiana, in her essay, “Heart Warming Love of a Grandchild,” captures a special moment sitting on steps with her grandson as it begins to snow on Christmas morning. In an exchange between the two that’s better than a Hollywood scene, the young boy conveys to his grandmother an awareness of life and love beyond his years. Read Telesa’s wonderful story.

In her entry, “Connections,” Kathie Randolph Sucidlo, Portland, Maine, writes of the special heart-felt bond between a grandparent and a grandchild. After reading her essay and reflecting upon it, I felt as if Kathie had truly tugged on a common thread, a feeling many grandparents share but may not be able to articulate. Kathie encapsulated it, eloquently. Someone once said there are no second acts in life, which is another way of saying there are no “do-overs.” After reading Kathie’s essay, I’m convinced there are: we call them grandchildren.” Read Kathie’s essay and find out.

Now a family elder herself, Denise Kano, of Los Angeles, California, reached back in time to create stirring portraits of her grandparents, with whom she lived for 12 years while going to school. The title of her essay, “It’s a Great Life If You Don’t Weaken,” comes from her grandmother Nell’s favorite saying. It would be hard to find more engaging or lively descriptions, even in fiction, than in the story Denise shares. With a few brush strokes, she painted vivid, lasting memories. After reading her essay, it’s easy to understand why her grandparents are so dearly missed. Read Denise’s story.

If you didn’t enter this year, you’ll have the chance to sharpen your storytelling skills before next year’s contest opens in June. We look forward to hearing your special take on what the “grandparenting” experience means to you and your family.

Please join me in congratulating our five talented storytellers. And don’t go away. Stay tuned to find out which one of them will receive a free six-night Caribbean cruise provided by AARP® Travel Center powered by Expedia®.

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