Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor of Acworth, and her grandfather, Ralph Lynch of Kennesaw, have been nearly inseparable since she was born 10 years ago. The 81-year-old Korean War veteran has been a constant presence in Lizzie’s life through several moves, two marriages and other changes.
After he underwent surgery, Lizzie decided to tell her grandfather exactly how she feels about him this past spring in a letter she titled, “Why I Love Grandpa.”
“He’s always been there for me and I’ve never really given him a good present. So I thought I’d write him something,” said Lizzie, a Park Street Elementary School fifth grader, during a recent visit to see Lynch at his apartment at Kennesaw’s Highland Court.
While Lizzie has an older brother, Jordan, two younger sisters, Maddie and Caroline, and at least eight cousins, the unique relationship she formed with Lynch seemed to have begun from the moment she entered the world. He and Jordan were the first to visit the hospital after her birth following complications.
Since then, Lynch has been a trusted babysitter, teacher of right from wrong, dependable chauffeur and a favorite storyteller. Many of the stories that Lizzie has enjoyed deal with his youth as a boy who grew up cutting school and working with horses and other animals on the border between Nebraska and Wyoming, said Lynch.
“She was mine to take care of,” he said of his granddaughter. “I love all of my grandkids but we spent a lot of time together.”
Erin Vinings, a Park Street first-grade teacher, said Lizzie was the only person who could convince her dad to get on the floor and sit on balloons.
She said he often picked up Lizzie from school each day with sugar cubes pocketed for her to feed a nearby horse. During difficulties in school, he sat in the parking lot for an hour before leaving in case she needed him, said Vinings. She said he also attended father-daughter events and was a companion in the morning darkness when Lizzie began riding the school bus.
“He was in the military and traveled a great deal,” Vinings said of her first husband, Tracy Taylor. “My father was always the one that from an early age helped me, babysitting. He came and stayed with me a lot when my husband was away.”
“So it seemed like he was more there than anyone else … like a father figure,” Lizzie chimed in.
In 2009, Vinings married Patrick Vinings, who said he respects the relationship between his stepdaughter and father-in-law.
Lizzie and Lynch remain very close as the special bond between them grows with age. Lynch, who said he worked many years as a New York construction inspector, including for the World Trade Center, said the letter his granddaughter wrote to him brought tears to his eyes.
“We spend so much time together; she’s one of the joys of my life,” he said. “I couldn’t believe a young lady that young could write something like that.”
In the letter, after explaining that she loved her grandpa for his strength and fascination with cowboy culture, Lizzie wrote the following:
“Number three and most importantly – He loves me! He loves me sooo much! I mean, he would crawl to the end of the Earth if he had to for me! I’ve been around him for 9 years and it seems like his world revolves around me. Grandpa, Thank – you for all you have done for me! Like I said, My Grandpa is the best!!!”
Lynch said the letter hangs proudly on a wall in his apartment.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter first proclaimed Grandparents Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Proclamations have been issued annually since then.
According to the U.S. Census, 6.6 million American children lived with a grandparent in 2008, representing 9 percent of all children. The majority, 4.4 million, lived in the grandparent’s home. Thirty percent of children younger than age 5 whose mothers worked outside the home were cared for on a regular basis by a grandparent during their mother’s work hours in 2005.
In 2007, 1.5 million grandparents who were in the labor force were also responsible for most of the basic needs of their grandchildren, according to the census data.