This is a new column by staff writer Karen Nazor Hill about the joys and challenges of being a 21st-century grandparent.
Being a mother is one of the greatest joys of my life. Many of the happiest moments I've experienced in my 59 years have been because of my four kids. And, to be honest, there have been some lows, too.
My four children are now grown and living their lives.
For many years, my children lived on the West Coast. Two were in Montana, and two lived in California. Three of the four moved back to the Chattanooga area in the last few years. My youngest, 29, is in graduate school in LaJolla, Calif.
About five years ago, I got a phone call from my oldest daughter in Montana that would forever change my life. She called to tell me she was pregnant.
I was thrilled to hear the good news but immediately saddened that my first grandchild would live thousands of miles away. Eight months later, I flew to Montana to be with my daughter when she gave birth. I would see them only three times during the next year.
It killed me.
I've never been good at goodbyes (I would literally get sick when my kids would leave after a visit home), but saying goodbye to my baby granddaughter was excruciating. I loved this child as though I had given birth to her. How was I possibly going to live the rest of my life seeing her only a few times each year?
Just before my granddaughter's first birthday on Dec. 18, 2007, my daughter gave me the best Christmas present I have ever received. She told me she was coming home -- to live. She wanted to raise her child around family.
Fast-forward four years.
My first granddaughter, almost 5 now, and her 18-month-old sister, are my next-door neighbors. Our homes are separated by a patch of woods. Every evening when I come home from work, I beeline it to their house, where I am greeted with bear hugs, kisses and unconditional love.
They make me feel young. I play all the time. I jump rope. I play dolls. I dance. I build castles with blocks. I finger-paint. I'm up on the latest toy trends, and I'm familiar with children's TV and movie characters. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and Charlie Brown are back in my life, and I've grown to love SpongeBob SquarePants.
I'm transforming the woods between our home into a Christmas wonderland.
I love being a grandparent. It's one of the greatest joys in life.