How Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Norbert Krapf Helped Me to Become a More Mindful Grandparent

Did you watch the Nobel Prize ceremony in 2016 when Patti Smith sang “It’s a Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” in honor of her friend Bob Dylan? If not, you need to watch it here. And if you are one of the three million people who have already watched this video, trust me, it’s worth another watch.

Why bring up this song in relation to our subject of mindful grandparenting? Especially since Smith stumbles at about 2:30 minutes into this performance?

To answer that question, we need the help of poet Norbert Krapf, whose book The Return of Sunshine: Poems By a Laureate for Ecstatic Grandparents was given to me by journalist, author, and spiritual retreat leader Judith Valente.

I enjoyed a lovely 45-minute conversation with Norbert, and I was able to both initiate the Zoom call, record it, and load it to YouTube, little accomplishments that make me feel good today.

If you don’t have 45 minutes to watch the whole conversation, I invite you to go to the 25-minute mark to listen to Norbert read his poem “Peyton, Patti, Bob, and the Nobel Prize in Literature.” Listen for what happens when two-year-old Peyton witnesses the song, the stumble, and the recovery after he enters his grandfather’s room.

This conversation delighted me, and I hope it might delight you as well. In it, you can see the joy of two old grandparents, seeking words strong enough to convey the passion they feel for gifts their grandchild(ren) give(s) to them and the renewal of their own capacity to feel, hear, and see the divinity around them always.

Parker Palmer says, “If you doubt that we all arrive in this world with gifts and as a gift, pay attention to an infant or a very young child.” When we do so mindfully, we can’t help ourselves. We become ecstatic. How have you witnessed this process in your life or in the life of some other person?

I would LOVE to hear your responses to any portion of these videos you can watch. I didn’t do any editing of the interview of Norbert. That’s a skill I’ll try to pick up next.

Would you welcome more grandparent interviews? If so, do you have any requests for authors or musicians to interview?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Marian Beaman on October 25, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    I remember reading, Just Kids, the story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in Brooklyn just before their rise to fame. The book entranced me partly, I guess, because their experience was so foreign to mine. I’ll listen to your interviews when I chop veggies for our supper. I like to take advantage of audio when I do simple tasks in the kitchen.

    Kudos to you for your techno versatility this week. I’m at the stage of trying to organize my YouTube videos into playlists. Baby steps, baby steps.

    Of course, I’d like to hear more about grand-parenting. At the moment, I’m cheering my two oldest as they submit essays for college (!) admission. I am enjoying all the stages of grand-parenting as you recall from my blog. After our own children grew up, I got my “fix” working with two-year-olds at church. A magical age!

    At the moment I have on hold at the library a picture book by Douglas Wood, What Grandmas Can’t Do. I’m eager to see the examples between the book covers.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 25, 2021 at 4:03 pm

      Yes, Marian, I read Just Kids too. Patti Smith is not only a good musician. She’s an excellent writer too.

      The videos will be perfect company for chopping veggies. I like listening while I work also.

      I found the book you mention on a YouTube video. Cute book.

      Wow, I can’t believe your two oldest are ready for college. But of course I see how tall they have become in your pictures. You and their parents have given them so much love and support. Any college they choose will be lucky to have them. Their professors will recognize their many talents also. Best wishes to both of them!

  2. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on October 25, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Well, Shirley, the Patti Smith video and your interview with this poet laureate are meeting me right where I’m at…being a grandma who lives with her grandson full time, ever since he was born 2 1/2 years ago. The four of us (Grandpa, daughter, grandson (Hokala) and I) moved to Washington state (from California) in August and, together, we have ecstatic moments daily that help us feel at home in our new place. Today, for example, a stiff wind is whipping and swirling leaves, and, while I was Hokala’s caregiver, we played a couple hours beneath the bigleaf maples. Our leaf pile became a “leaf boat” and we strapped on safety belts to travel together, and Hokala loved being covered up with the big yellow leaves.

    I was happy to be with you for the entire unedited interview. Thank you.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 25, 2021 at 8:30 pm

      Dolores, it’s great to have you back here again and speaking as an ecstatic grandmother now living in Washington State. I am so glad to hear that you love your new place. I know you loved your place in Oakland too, so it is good to know that the transition has gone well. Yes, Hokala is key. Children his age carry the sunshine with them, as Norbert’s book title suggests, and when we play with them, we too feel Light and lighter.

      I’m impressed that you stayed with the entire interview. I’m not surprised, however, The time flew by as we discovered many points of common experience and values.

  3. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on October 25, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    Our eight grand-babies have become grandchildren, most already in their teens and one in his early twenties. Each stage has its own delights, but we can’t believe how quickly those baby years disappeared, much quicker it seems to us than our own children’s infant years. I was delighted by an eight month old at church last Sunday, who, when I last saw her was still so babyish and now has blossomed into this gorgeous, inquisitive, relational little being. She stared at me intensely for several minutes and when I asked her caregiver (she’s a foster child) why she was doing that, she said, “She wants you to take off your mask. She has a thing about masks”. When I took off my mask the baby broke into this delightful grin and studied my face, reacting to every expression! I’m still thinking about that, and how we all need to take off our masks (not the ones to prevent the Covid Virus, but the ones behind which we hid our real selves) and become real to one another. “A little child will lead them.”

    • Shirley Showalter on October 26, 2021 at 9:19 am

      So interesting, Elfrieda! That baby speaks for all of us, I think, who wear masks to protect others and ourselves, but who grieve the loss of the face — especially in church. A little child can certainly lead us to name the most important things if we are open to re=learning them.

      And you are so right! The young years fly by. I am trying to savor, as you have done, every stage. But the early years have a special poignancy as they fly by. Do you think it’s the same poignancy we feel as fall goes into winter and as the 70s move toward the 80s?

      • Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on October 26, 2021 at 7:09 pm

        For sure!

  4. Maren C. Tirabassi on October 26, 2021 at 10:11 am

    I need to put off watching until the evening, and oh, yes I remember Patty Smith singing. More later.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 26, 2021 at 10:19 am

      You would recognize what an incredible moment this was, Maren. And I know you will enjoy, and understand, Norbert’s poem right down to the bones of it.

      • Beth Styer on October 26, 2021 at 12:02 pm

        Thank you Shirley for this lovely interview. Listened while visiting our grandchildren in England. The grandparenting experience changes as they age into their preteen and teem years. The magic of watching them become their own special persons is a true gift.

        • Shirley Showalter on October 26, 2021 at 2:53 pm

          Hi Beth, thanks for sending this message all the way across the ocean! What a joy it must be for you to see grandchildren. I imagine that every time you see them they have changed. I am also sure that you are the kind of grandmother who makes keen observations about their special gifts and characteristics. One of the things Marilyn (my co-author of the forthcoming The Mindful Grandparent) and I observed was this very difference in ages you describe. She has nine grandchildren, and some of them are in college. Another is a baby. Mine are 10.9, and 4.

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