This grandfather of four believes that at a certain age grandkids have to earn their ice cream. They can’t expect to just hop into the car, and maybe even nap, while I drive straight to their favorite ice cream place. They have to do something before we stop for helpings of the good stuff.

    On a Sunday last September, I asked our two younger grandkids—Daniella, 15, and Cristiana, 12—if they wanted to go for a walk and then get ice cream. Where were we going? Well, there’s a park with a windmill on a hill that you see when driving to Jones Beach State Park, and Grandpa had always wanted to walk there. Sure, they said. You could hear the trust in their voices.

    While Irene sat in the car at the Norman J. Levy Park reading a newspaper, the girls and I set out down a trail with small black goats cavorting on a hill to our left. Despite trees and plants all around, there were inviting glimpses of the water and the boats below. The girls seemed more interested in talking than sightseeing. 

    (The picture on the left is of the girls taking an early break on their journey.)

    We walked and walked and the oldest member of the party was heard, several times, saying “this is longer than I thought.” There were exercise stations along the way, bars and benches for stretching. Cristiana did 20 sit-ups at one of them. Her older sister and I watched. 

    We came to an intersection where one trail led up, the other straight ahead. Up we went. We had yet to spot any sign of a windmill. The girls were getting restless and tired. We took a short break, and Cristiana was disappointed by the water I offered her. It was warm.

    Back on our feet, we headed up again, asking some guys coming toward us what was up there. A windmill? Yes. Excellent. We got to within 200 yards of the windmill when Daniella announced, “I’m not going any farther.” To which her grandfather replied, “Is it ‘farther’ or ‘further’?” She, at the ripe old age of 15, was not in the mood for a debate about proper word usage. Strange, I thought. 

    There are impressive vistas of Manhattan, Jones Beach and other parts of Long Island from up there, but the girls were focused on getting back to Grandma. We headed down. 

    The girls were a good 50 yards ahead of me all the time. When I caught up with them at the bottom, Cristiana was sitting on a bench, pointing to a sign, a sign we hadn’t seen when we arrived. It said “Short Cut.” When I suggested next time, we could take the short cut, the answers (plural) were “no”—there would be no next time.

    On our way to their reward, I asked the girls what size ice creams they thought they deserved. “Large” was the unanimous response. Done. 

    While they may not be thrilled about this long walk, their 82-year-old grandpa is. I finally got a fairly close look at that windmill. I am confused though about one thing. Both the trail going to and coming from the windmill seemed to be uphill. That isn’t possible, is it?

    Later I learned that Daniella had told her sister, “That’s the most depressing windmill I’ve ever seen,” as though at 15 she’s a windmill expert. Ice cream yes, windmills no.


    My new book is out. “Grandma Told Me to Never Believe Anything Grandpa Says” tells of my adventures with four grandkids, including chapters written from the perspective of a teenage grandchild. They all agree I don’t know how to behave in restaurants. The book is available at book stores or through Buy a Book on my website,

    Wait there’s more. Irene’s memoir about growing up in oil refinery country right outside Chicago with a father who thought it was a waste of time for her to go to college is also just out. She went to school, met me and then got “dragged” to New York and back and forth across the ocean. “Only Gypsies Move on Sunday” is also available at book stores.