Keller, Texas teenager Lauren Blank spent significant time as a small child with her grandfather, Ron Petrillo, whom she said helped raise her starting when she was very young.
The two already have a particularly special bond, having spent so much time together during her formative years. Blank, known as “Ren” by her friends, said that her grandfather helped to make her the person that she is today—in other words, he’s a big reason that she’s a responsible, caring young adult after years of watching him set a good example.
That bond was strengthened even further on her 16th birthday, though.
For her birthday, Petrillo gave his teenage granddaughter a set of journals—but where many young girls are giving blank notebooks to fill, these ones already had writing covering each and every page.
“Lauren #1”, the first one was titled. Then, there was “#2”, then “#3”. That’s all they said on the front; just three spiral-bound notebooks in numerical order, written in scrawling sharpie.
Then, Blank opened them up.
The first one started with a greeting.
“Hi Lauren,” her grandfather had written. “I’m just starting this so someday you might read it for fun.”
At first, Ren didn’t know what to think of the unusual gift, and she didn’t know what she was reading.
But she soon realized just how precious these journals were.
It was a diary of their time together, giving day-to-day accounts of the adventures they went on, starting in February of 2003. Titled “Papa’s Story”, it was the diary of them – written out so no matter how old Ren got, she’d still have the memories of her earliest years with her grandfather to remember clear as day.
Her grandfather admitted after he gave her the present that he had initially been unsure whether or not he should give them to her now, or wait until he passed and have them delivered by her mother as a true memory.
“I had three dates in mind — I had 16, 21, and then when I was gone,” Petrillo told TODAY.
At her mother’s urging, though, he opted to deliver them himself—giving the pair a chance to pore through the pages together and remember all the fun they’d had when she was still young.
It’s a lot of memories for the two to go over together, now that Lauren is old enough to truly look back and appreciate all of the fun that they’d had. It’s a great way for her to remember things that she may have been a bit too young to recall now, as well – like, she told TODAY, the way Petrillo would playfully run into the wall over and over again in a fun game of ‘see ya later’.
But it’s for more than just Ren, of course.
today for my birthday, my grandpa gave me 3 books filled w stories of each time he hung out w me from the age of 2 to 5. I am speechless.😭 pic.twitter.com/fyeOUV1K2J
Petrillo was his granddaughter’s first babysitter during her early years, watching her day after day and getting to see what an incredible person she’s grown up into. He loves her exactly as she is now, just a few years away from heading off on her own – but looking back at some of the memories from her infancy and toddler years are just as much fun. Her grandfather is also getting a chance to relive trips to the rescue zoo, special spots and favorite stores for the pair, and simple moments that easily slip through the cracks of time by re-reading their adventures years down the road.
“The rescue zoo — we’d go there every day except Monday, when they were closed,” said Petrillo. “And we’d go look at all the stuff, and then I’d buy her every trinket in the gift shop.”
The very last journal entry ends when Blank was 5 years old, just before she went off to kindergarten and no longer needed her grandfather to watch her during the day.
Their relationship obviously didn’t end at that point, but Petrillo considered it a perfect stopping point for their written chronicles. They start with his early days as a babysitter, navigating the world of being a grandparents decades after holding his own child for the first time, and finish when he watches his granddaughter head off to school to start becoming her own person.
Even five years of writing, though, is a hefty endeavor. The gift, although just pen and paper in physical nature, makes up hours and hours of Petrillo’s life – and his only tangible reward for the effort is the chance to re-read what he’d written down with Blank now that she’s older.
But that’s no small reward. Petrillo hopes that the joy he and Blank get as they read the entries inspires other grandparents, particularly those that are still young and new to the whole grandparent thing. He wants those – even if they’re still in their 40s or 50s when they become grandparents – to know that they can do something like this, and see the reward that comes from it down the road.
“If that’s the only thing that comes out of this then that’s just fine.”