Today, many grandparents play a double role by also serving as a parent to those grandchildren. According to the 2000 United States Census, 42 percent of co-resident grandparents claim primary responsibility for their co-resident grandchildren.
Larry Thomas is no different. The 67-year-old grandfather of three is helping to raise two of his grandchildren.
“I’m being daddy and grandpa and enjoying it,” he said.” I spend a lot of time with them.”
Thomas’s son, Jason, was in a trucking accident in early 2005, which has left him paralyzed from the chest down. Jason spent six months in various hospitals and is now confined to a motorized wheelchair. “He’s got such a great attitude,” Thomas said. “He’s doing real good, health wise.”
However, while he may take on a parental role, Thomas is still a grandfather to Jason’s two children. When he goes outside with Aaron, 6, and Natalie, 5, Thomas is determined to make them smile. A creation of his design helps him to achieve that goal.
Thomas built a “Flying Jenny” in his backyard for the two kids to play on. The device consists of a 25-foot-long pole, which spins on a post in the middle when someone pushes on the pole. The device also doubles as a see-saw.
The device was built as a nod to the toys of his childhood, Thomas said.
“I’m sure they used to be pretty common,” he said. “Now, nobody knows what they are.”
From the time the two children were born, Thomas said he intended to make one, but decided to wait until they were a bit older.
“When I was a young’un, we had to make our own toys,” he said. “My dad and cousin built us kids a ‘Flying Jenny’ which was bigger than that one.”
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‘I have the honor of helping people’
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His fellow soldiers know him as Lt. Col. Will Conley, commander of the National Guard’s 527th Engineer Battalion.
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