Grandparents are a bit of parent, a bit of teacher, a bit (but not too much!) of a disciplinarian and a handful of best friend.

And Sunday is their day.

The first Sunday after Labor Day is officially National Grandparents Day, a time to honor our real grandparents as well as older folks we pick for the role.

This became a nationally recognized holiday in 1979. Card companies and florists — and millions of Americans with no ulterior motives other than love — happily jump on the Grandparents Day bandwagon.

Doting grandparents understand best the words of the author Gore Vidal, “Never have children, only grandchildren.”

The lady to thank for this special day is Marian McQuade, daughter of a West Virginia coal miner, mother of 15 and grandmother of at least 40, plus scads of great-grands. She always says her primary motivation was to champion the cause of the lonely elderly and to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents can provide.

This Fayette County, W.Va., homemaker must have been a bundle of persuasion, first convincing West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore to declare a state Grandparents Day in 1973, then U.S. Sens. Robert Byrd and Jennings Randolph to create a national bill signed by then–U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Her silent partner in all this was her late husband of more than 60 years, J o e McQuade. As she has aged, her children and grandchildren have seen to it the tradition continues and the public has resources and ideas on how to celebrate the day.

There is an official National Grandparents Day Council ( g r a n d p a r e n t s - d a y . c o m ) responsible for keeping the founder’s ideas alive. Her daughter D.J. McQuade-Lancaster is the council’s coordinator. When contacted this week she said, “My mother is now 90 and doing well. She continues to have her same sense of humor and feistiness and will be celebrating in her hometown of Oak Hill, W.Va., on Grandparents Day.”

At age 74, Marian McQuade was interviewed by the Sun Herald. Her thoughts are as salient now as they were in 1991:

“I spent a lot of time with my little grandmother on the farm when I was young.

“She had this old, small stove. I don’t know how she did everything on it, even to baking her own bread. After she’d worked all day around the house and farm, she’d turn her apron over to the good side, grab a jar of jelly or something, and take me with her to visit some sick person or a shut-in.

“Most people, after all that work, would just sit down. But she took the time to spend with others in need. That’s why I became so interested in helping the elderly.

“Everyone is a grandchild and can be involved in the observance of this special day. It’s a time to discover one’s roots and to learn patience and understanding for the elderly. But most important of all, this day should be a spirit that lives throughout the year, a spirit we carry inside ourselves.”

In honor of Grandparents Day, the Sun Herald asked readers about their own grandparent stories. We share their responses:

Life lessons learned

My grandparents, Ed and Lounette Hulett, have been such a positive influence in my life. After I was born my mom had to return to work; they took care of me every day until I was 2 years old. They were always willing to take me to places or events when my parents had to work long hours and couldn’t get me there.

My grandparents have always been there for me, as well as for my brother and other cousins. They have never missed an important, as well as not-so-important, event in my life.

To say that they have shown me how to be a good grandparent is an understatement. They have shown me how to love a grandchild no matter how mischievous one can be and how to support every decision, no matter how misguided that decision may have been.

My grandparents have also shown me how to love a spouse — they are at 47 years and still counting. Most importantly, they have had a strong Christian impact on me. They showed me how to love God through every situation, good and bad. I strongly believe that I have the best grandparents in the whole entire world. — Katelyn E. Hulett, 16 Gulfport High School junior

A song for Grandparents Day

Kaylie Cuevas lives with her grandparents, Gayle and Brenda Cuevas of Long Beach. After hearing a news story in 2002 about the growing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, the 8-year-old, with the help of her grandparents, wrote a song in honor of grandparents and Grandparents Day:

“Thank Heaven for Our Grandparents”

I live with my grandparents, and it’s great

A little different but not as much as you would think

I can’t say Mom. I can’t say Dad

There have been many times when I have wanted to, because that’s who they are. . . . Thank heaven for our grandparents They love us too My grandma picked me up after school today You see, I’m 8 years old now in the second grade I live with her and my grandpa For five long years now I’ve had it all I got out of the car and walked up the driveway My grandpa was waiting like he does every day He said, ‘Hey, my little pumpkin, everything all right?’ ‘Yes, I got a smiley face today. Can we play some solitaire tonight?’ Later that evening before I went to bed I asked my grandma for a picture of her and Granddad ‘Yes I’ve got one, Kaylie, but it’s so old, you see.’ ’But Grandma could you find it and give it to me?’ ‘Why do you want a picture of me and Granddad?’ ‘I want to take it to school and show it to my class ‘All the other kids will have one to show too ‘But mine will be so so special of Grandpa and you. A lot of years have gone by. I have a real good life. Grandma still tucks me in, and they kiss me goodnight I pray the five million other kids are as lucky as I am To have grandparents like I do, that will love and take real good care of them Now on this special day, oh Grandma and Grandpa, I want to say, I love you, and happy Grandparents Day! — Kaylie Cuevas, Long Beach