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Spending time with grandkids: For the binstocks, every day is Grandparents Day

Courtesy Photo Alex Wert, 16, talks about fishing with his grandpa, Dennis Binstock, over Labor Day weekend at Lake Tschida in Grant County.

Dennis and Michaele Binstock of Dickinson recently sat around a campfire with their grandchildren to tell stories and roast marshmallows.

It was one of those idyllic weekends at Lake Tschida where they went fishing, walked the dogs and played games in the campers.

"All my grandkids spend a lot of time with Dennis and me," Michaele said, while remembering the Labor Day weekend.

"I had nine or 10 kids in the camper at one time," she said. "We climbed a tree for the first time. With the younger ones, we even had a tea party in the camper."

Grandparents Day

Today has been set aside as National Grandparents Day, originated by Marian McQuade, a housewife in West Virginia's Fayette County. Her motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage of their grandparents. President Jimmy Carter, in 1978, proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

The Binstocks have three children, Jerry, Kim and Chrystal, and nine grandchildren. Becoming grandparents in their early 40s, the Binstocks have 20 years of practice at being grandparents.

Michaele remembers her Ukrainian grandma, Malania Rodakowski, who spent a lot of time at her childhood home or an uncle's farm after her husband died.

"She used to babysit for us. She loved to cook and bake," she said.

Michaele said her mom had a special love for the grandkids, taking them to the farm and loading up the car with their Barbies and toys.

"They helped mom butcher the chickens and wash the cucumbers," Michaele said. "When dad was diagnosed with cancer she came to live with us."

Grandparenting skills

Michaele learned to be a good grandma by example, even though lifestyles were considerably different back then, she said.

She works as an activities program assistant at Evergreen, while Dennis is a self-employed truck driver.

"I couldn't sit at home and do nothing," she said. "I'd get very depressed. I love going to work and was sad when the kids went back to school. I like kids and I like old people."

Michaele has three small dogs to keep her company while Dennis is on the road. She finds the time to can boxes of fruit, but draws the line at crocheting or knitting.

Being a grandma, she makes more time for her family.

"I didn't take enough time enjoying my own children," she said. "Kami and Mattea (granddaughters) were at our house all summer. I've got Barbies, Polly Pockets and trucks for all my grandkids. I've spoiled them rotten."

The older boys will go to grandma's house when she needs help cutting grass or a household project.

This summer, she took three granddaughters on a train ride to Minneapolis.

Working as an activity assistant, she brings her grandchildren with her to volunteer at Evergreen.

"The residents love it," she said. "My girls visit with them or help with projects. They help with bingo or get the treats out. The girls love going there."

Grandpa's words of wisdom

Dennis said the best thing about being a grandpa is watching the grandchildren grow up.

Besides teaching them to fish, he encourages them to make good decisions.

"When I was 19 years old, I worked for $3 an hour and now there are jobs at $19 to $24 an hour," he said. "I tell them to save their money -- those jobs might not be there in the future."

The grandchildren have favorite memories of time spent with their grandparents.

Austin Wert, 19, said a favorite memory is playing cards with grandma and going fishing on the boat with grandpa.

Katie Wert, 13, loved her trip to Minnesota with grandma and riding in his truck and fishing with grandpa.

Kami Wert, 10, made her first Ukrainian Easter egg with grandma, making homemade doughnuts and going to Minnesota on the train. With her grandpa, it was riding in his truck, spending time in Medora and going fishing.

Austin said his grandma has the best advice in the world.

"Any problems I'm having, she knows exactly how to get me through them," he said. "My grandpa tells the best jokes and the best stories. There is never a dull moment with him."

Katie said her grandma offers comfort when she's upset, while grandpa always tells jokes and stories from the road.

Kami described her grandma as caring, funny, helping and always there when she needs her. With grandpa, she said, "He always has a joke to tell, helpful, mind, smart and a good mechanic."

When asked what they've learned from their grandparents, Austin said, "My grandparents have taught me that life is too short. You must do what makes you happy. And great things come to those who are patient and work hard."

Katie learned they didn't have a perfect life and to enjoy the little things in life.

Kami added, "To be myself, kind to others, responsible... and how to can many fruits."

Working at Evergreen has taught Michaele about the needs of the residents. It isn't for lack of food or shelter. It's about personal contacts.

She encourages everyone to call their grandparents or to give them a hug, especially today.

"A hug is very important," she said. "That's what the elderly need."