Grandfather Works for A Decade On Granddaughter’s Sweet 16 Gift, Her Reaction Isn’t What He Expected


As her 16th birthday was getting nearer and nearer, Lauren Blank, or Ren as she prefers to be called, could barely contain her excitement and had planned a

low-key party with her near and dear. But little did she know that her grandfather had been working for a decade on her sweet 16 gift.


The Special Event

Born and raised in a quiet small town in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex of Texas, Ren matured into a well-educated and informed young lady. Her family were so proud of her that they decided to do something special for her 16th birthday. But Ren had no idea how it’d all turn out.


An Unorthodox Heirloom

Grandparents often give their grandchildren treasured heirlooms on their Sweet 16, such as jewelry or other items with a significant monetary or sentimental value. But the gift Ren’s grandfather, Ron, had prepared for her was something far from ordinary. It was emotionally overwhelming.


Over A Decade In Making

Ren’s grandfather had been working on her 16th birthday gift for over 10 years. He kept the present secret and even Ren’s parents didn’t know what it was. But what’s for sure was that the gift would change her life forever. To understand it, you’d have to learn their deep-seated bond.


Cherished Moments

Ren was sent to live with her grandfather when she was only 2 years old. Spending every day together, they developed a very close bond. Considering Ren at the time was too young to remember their time together, Ron meanwhile didn’t want those memories to fade into nothingness as time went by, so he started a secret endeavor.


The Building Blocks

Every day Ron worked tirelessly on his mysterious gift. It was a tedious and long process, but he continued slowly adding to the present for more than a decade. Slowly it grew into something quite unique and special. The question was when would be the best time to give his granddaughter the gift.


Finding The Perfect Moment

Ron thought that he would either give her the gift when she was 16, 21 or maybe even after he had passed away. After thinking it over and over, Ron decided to give her the gift while he was still alive because giving her the gift after he had died would be heartbreaking, not the heartwarming gift he intended.


Reaching A Milestone

As the age of 16 marks the transition from childhood into adulthood – a huge milestone in one’s life, Ron eventually decided to give his granddaughter the life-changing surprise on her 16th birthday. The big day finally came in March of 2017, and he wondered whether all of his hard work would pay off.


The Notebooks

When Ren opened the present, she was confused at what she was looking at – three spiral notebooks, labeled “Lauren book 1, 2 and 3.” Ren gazed down at the notebooks, completely baffled, but she would soon find out just what an amazing gift she had received from her grandfather.


Revealing His Secret

Browsing through the pages, Ren noticed that the books were written in pen and addressed to her by name. Still, she had no idea what they were all about. As Ren read the words in the notebook, her grandfather looked on with pride and waited patiently to see her reaction. Then she realized what she was reading and felt a tug on her heartstrings.


Hi, Lauren

The notebook’s first entry started with the words: “Hi Lauren: I’m just starting this so someday you might read it for fun. It’s going to be a day-to-day record of you and me.” As it turned out, Ren’s grandfather had written extensively every day by hand to record their mutual memories in her formative years.


Memories Flood Back

Ron had looked after his granddaughter for 3 years until she went to kindergarten at 5. During that time, he managed to fill up the 3 notebooks with stories of their time together which turned out to be little remembered memories to his granddaughter. The simple gift caused certain parts of her forgotten past to come flooding back.


See Ya

Even Ron himself didn’t remember all of the stories he had written in the notebooks so many years ago, such as the game “see ya.” It involved him doing whatever silly things he could to make Ren laugh as hard as possible. “He used to do this ‘See Ya’ game, and he would run into the wall over and over and over and I would die,” Ren recalled. But that wasn’t all.


More Gems

As she read deeper and deeper into the notebooks, Ren discovered more and more beautiful stories that had her floored. By the end she could barely hold back the emotions as she read the words: “One of your favorite things is for me to push the button on your clock and do my silly dance. When I say ‘Lauren do it,’ you sit in your bed and say ‘papa’ and I keep dancing, falling, running into the wall, turning around like an uncoordinated fat ballerina, and you keep laughing.”


The Dwindling Days

As she finished reading the touching notebooks, Ren was dumbfounded by the gift. She had no idea how on earth her grandfather found the time to write down all the stories while taking care of her every day for years. As it turned out, he wrote their daily journal while Ren was enjoying her afternoon nap. It was then Ren realized the extent of what her grandfather had done.


A Beautiful Accomplishment

The notebooks were undoubtedly the most precious gift she had ever received. Her grandfather amassed more than 185 handwritten pages of emotional stories about their three years together, spanning three full notebooks. Though the journals ended when Ren turned 5, she luckily she now has three full years of beautiful memories with her grandfather. But that’s not the end of her story.


Spreading The Love

Ren posted pictures of the incredible gift on Twitter and the post spread like wildfire. Ren has even decided to do the same thing for her grandchildren. “I’ve had so much feedback from other kids my age who say they want to get closer to their grandparents. Or, it’s been a real eye-opener for them to appreciate their grandparents while they are still here. I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this,” Ren says.


Mindful Saving

Anyone with a child knows that childcare is now becoming more and more expensive. These days the solution in the more tight-knit families is to ask for the help of the Grandparents to watch their young grandchildren. It not only saves money for everyone involved, but it’s also a way for the family members to become closer at a very young age.


How She Laughed

It was only due to the notebook that Lauren was reminded of one of her favorite games from when she was only two years old.

They called it the ‘See Ya’ game, whose purpose was for Petrillo to make Lauren laugh as hard as possible by being silly. Lauren shared the story with Today, “He used to do this ‘See Ya’ game, [a]nd he would run into the wall over and over and over and I would die.”


Behind Her Back

Ren couldn’t understand how her grandfather had found the time to work on such intricate record keeping while also keeping such a watchful eye on her.

He had never been the sort of caretaker that would sit the young child down in front of the TV so he could focus on other things. Petrillo revealed that he would write their daily activities down while Lauren was taking her afternoon nap, as it was the only quiet moment he had.


The Dwindling Days

As Ren eventually reached school age, the time she spent with her grandfather began to dwindle, so Petrillo decided it was time to stop his record keeping.

The notebooks end when Ren was five and had begun kindergarten, which meant she no longer required her grandfather to look after her from day to day. Though he had finished writing when she was only five, he knew he had to wait for the perfect moment to give her such a meaningful record.


Tugging At Her Heart

Once Lauren realized just how much love her grandfather had put into her gift, she was completely overcome by emotion. It was one of the most incredible and thoughtful gifts she had ever received.

The more she read through the notebooks, the more memories she discovered that had been long forgotten. In all the pages she read through, there were a couple of entries in particular that stood out to both Lauren Blank and her grandfather.


The Tide Changes

As with anything that goes viral on the internet, even the best intentioned of posts can attract critics. The more Ren and Petrillo’s story spread, the more likely it became that Ren would attract some negative attention.

Sure enough, some critics made their way out of the woodwork to claim that Ren was just trying to use her grandfather’s love to become famous. She told the Daily Mail, It wasn’t [about] me being famous, it was about my grandpa’s love for me becoming famous.”


Lingering Effects

Ren shared with Buzzfeed, “I’ve had so much feedback from other kids my age who say they want to get closer to their grandparents. Or, it’s been a real eye-opener for them to appreciate their grandparents while they are still here.”

“I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this,” she continued. Ren has been filled with gratitude that she’s been able to inspire others to have such a close relationship with their own grandparents.


Following His Footsteps

Petrillo’s gift earned him and his granddaughter several interviews with news outlets as people all over had their hearts warmed by their touching story. Petrillo told Today that if there’s one thing everyone should take away from his gift, is that it’s something anyone can do.

“I just want the grandparents that are in their 40s and 50s to know that they can do the same thing,” he said. “If that’s the only thing that comes out of this, then that’s just fine.”


Precious memories

Always remember the ones you love.

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