Henry Winkler On Being a Grandparent – One of His Favorite Roles
Henry Winkler On Being a Grandparent
This is a post from my friends at Grandparent’s Link
Henry Franklin Winkler is an American actor, director, comedian, producer, and author. Winkler is best known for his role as Arthur Fonzarelli in the 1970s American sitcom Happy Days. I watched the series and loved his character, The Fonz.
What follows is an interview with Henry Winkler and my friends at Grandparent’s Link are asking the questions!
GPL: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We know you often speak about your beautiful wife Stacey and your loving relationship. How long have you been married?
Henry: Well, since 1978. So you tell me, since I’m dyslexic. I think 39 years.
GPL: And you have three kids, and how many grandchildren?
Henry: We have four grandkids and they all live close by. In fact, our daughter, her husband and two kids are working on their house right now, and they’ve moved in with us. It is joyful!
GPL: Is your best role ever — Father or Grandfather?
Henry: Well, I love being a Dad. The only thing is that you’re limited as a granddad because there are different rules because you’re not the parent, so you have to learn the rules in the same way, along with the grandchild. Sometimes, I talk out of turn and get looks from every direction.
GPL: Do you think that sometimes you have to “zip it”?
Henry: Sometimes you have to zip it, without a doubt. Zipping is very important.
GPL: Yep, we think so too, but it’s hard to zip it.
Henry: Yes, especially when they are sitting on the arm of the chair at dinner and if they fell backwards…but they have great parents. And I should just zip it.
GPL: Would you say you’re more a helicopter “I’m in control” type of granddad, or are you more of a laid-back grandpa?
Henry: I’ve learned to be laid-back. I’ve learned to just go where the conversation goes with them.
GPL: What about Stacey? Is she kind of laid-back too?
Henry: Oh, Stacey is one of the greatest nanas of all time.
GPL: Do your grandkids know what you do for a living?
Henry: They do. At least two of them know. One of them might, but doesn’t say anything. The other is too young. With the five-year-old, I sit on the couch and we watch reruns, and he looks at me. Then he looks at the screen, and back at me, and says, “Your hair is different.” “Yes, thank you very much.” And he says, “You were slimmer then.” And I reply, “Oh, thank you, thank you. Let’s watch something else right now!”
GPL: As you are talking about your grandkids, is there any particular situation with them that especially stands out?
Henry: I can’t remember anything offhand because everyday there is something new… Yesterday, I drove my five-year-old grandson to school, and we talked about vocabulary. I told him how wonderful his vocabulary is. He didn’t know what the word “vocabulary” meant, and now he does. He also noticed that the trees were manicured in a different way on the street where we were driving. It was almost as if they were manicured in order to create the most amount of shade on the windows of the building behind. He observes everything. I’m sure all children do. They are unbelievably funny. He stuck his face in his birthday cake. The kids love to dress up in costume.
GPL: What you are talking about here is being mindful. What you did in the car yesterday, talking about vocabulary and noticing the manicured trees. That’s all being right there in the moment, just the two of you and nobody else is around.
Henry: It’s like you’ve eaten a breakfast of smiles. For the rest of the day, it just keeps shooting back into your mind about how cozy it was, how interesting it was, how interested he was. It’s being in the moment when it’s happening, and you’re not so busy that you miss it.
GPL: So, it doesn’t really seem like you have a favorite thing to do with your grandchildren. What we are hearing is your favorite thing is to just “be” with them.
Henry: We play “Beanie Babies,” and I’m the monkey Milton. I use a different voice and I have to ask permission to come down from the tree to play with the Beanie Babies.
GPL: It’s a gift to be a grandparent.
Henry: Yes, there’s nothing better. It’s really true. It’s a feeling that overwhelms you.
Henry also speaks to us about the children’s books he has co-written with Lin Oliver… the critically acclaimed Hank Zipzer series. “Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, whose undiagnosed dyslexia made him a classic childhood underachiever, the Hank Zipzer series is about the high-spirited and funny adventures of a boy with learning differences.”*
GPL: We know you are especially proud of your collection of Hank Zipzer books. Do your grandchildren know you are an author?
Henry: My two oldest grandchildren are very aware of the books that I write. I have gone to their classes and have been the guest reader. They are so proud… and their friends laugh at the material. I don’t even know how to express that in language. That is bigger than I am. My grandson and his dad read them at night. It’s their chapter book before he goes to bed. Oh my gosh. It’s just heaven on earth.
GPL: That has to be so gratifying.
Henry: My partner Lin Oliver and I have the greatest time going to schools and talking to children. We have a PowerPoint, and it’s really rewarding. It may be one of the best things I do in my life outside of my family. I love that I get to act. I dreamt of it since I was seven, but I had no idea I would ever write a book, number one. And number two, that they would lead me down this incredible adventure.
GPL: Please tell us a little bit more about these books.
Henry: Hank Zipzer and Here’s Hank are primarily comedy series. They are the adventures of a little boy whose glass is half full… he just spills it everywhere. Hank wants to do well in school, but he just can’t figure it out because of his learning challenges. In our newest Here’s Hanknovel “Always Watch Out For Flying Potato Salad,” he goes to spend the day at his mom’s deli for “go to work with your parent day.” He drops the pastrami that he’s going to put on a sandwich for one of his classmates sitting in a booth, and he thinks, “Oh my God. What am I going to do? I better wash it.” He can either use the soap that smells like roses, or there’s another little canister that says, “Coconut.” He thinks, “Well, you can eat coconut.” As the classmate takes a bite of the pastrami sandwich, Hank watches in horror as a tiny bubble floats out of the kid’s mouth.
GPL: And it’s a television series too?
Henry: It’s been a hit on the BBC for four years. I go over there and I act in the show as one of the characters, one of the teachers that we’ve written in the book, who was my real music teacher, who really supported me when everybody else told me that I was stupid and would never achieve.
GPL: And, look where you are now — busier than ever. You have the return of your series Better Late Than Never, plus a show with Bill Hader, and MacGyver is back. You haven’t stopped for a second, so what has been your biggest challenge as you’ve gotten older?
Henry: One is my weight. I’m obsessed with my weight. I used to look like a pear, and now I look like mixed fruit. The other is just the fear of not being relevant. I don’t mean famous. I mean just being a doer – that I have some place and some thing and someone to do for – because if you don’t have that, you literally will become the raisin you leave behind in your cereal bowl. And, my knees. A lot of me is young, but my knees have revolted. There’s a rebellion going on in the middle of my legs. But really, the most important thing a human being can do is to stay relevant, in whatever way you find.
GPL: Thank you Henry. It has been a pleasure to speak with you. Any parting words to our readers?
Henry: Take a moment to be in the moment — to watch your grandchild. Don’t miss it. All you have to do as a grandparent is to be there, see, and listen, and then the entire world of grandchildren drumming on your heart will be accessible to you.
NanaHood Readers – Did you watch Happy Days? Were you a Henry Winkler fan too?