If you're anything like me, you can't stand those insufferable twits who are always bragging about their grandchildren. It's hard to take, isn't it? You can't go anywhere without them waving the latest pictures of the little rug rats under your nose every five minutes or getting a blow-by
blow description of the little monsters' first steps or trip to the potty. ''Hey pal, most all of us either walk or have toilet privileges,'' you want to scream. ''So, what's the big deal?'' Then there's always the pains-in-the-neck who sport those ''World's Greatest Grandpa'' T-shirts, vanity license plates, photo coffee mugs or plaster their autos with the obligatory ''Ask me about my grand kids'' bumper stickers. Why don't these boobs dare us to ask them about their sanity? ''Oh, he's/she's just the cutest little thing,'' they always start. Or they begin with the equally obnoxious: ''Why, do you know what my grandson/daughter said/did just the other day?'' As if we really give half a hoot. I know just how annoying these people can be. Working at a newspaper, everybody in my age group, which isn't near as many as it used to be, is always weighted down with a ton of pictures of the little waifs and a few thousand scraps of paper filled with scribbles they're convinced are proof the kids are budding Picassos. You can't escape looking at everybody's photos, coffee cups and/or poorly formed notes to Gramppapa and/or Grammama. It's tough enough to see these lost souls over the forest of brightly framed pictures of all the grand kids. And the biggest forest is always the one guy who has just one grandson, but can't resist about 156 odd poses of the little brat that amounts to enough different metal compositions to interfere with regular radio reception. There should be a question on every job application: ''Do you have grandchildren?'' If the answer is ''Yes,'' don't call us, we'll call you. Now don't get the wrong idea. I am not near the curmudgeon I may seem, although on this particular topic I just might be reaching the outer limits of my thin fuzzy facade. In fact, there are those, my mother and two daughters among them, who see me as downright warm and sensitive on occasion. Well, I guess if they can swallow that guff, perhaps there is a budding Rembrandt or two in some of these childish Crayon strokes after all. So, now that I've got your attention, let me tell you about a truly beautiful pair of children growing up in Bettendorf, Iowa, along the banks of the Mississippi River about 70 miles south of here. And let me hasten to point out that the fact he and she happen to be the son and daughter of my oldest has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the treatise that follows. I am certain that if I had had the exquisite pleasure of coming in contact with either of these kids -- Jacob Robert and Emma Kathleen Schwarm -- under any circumstances other than those connected with family obligations, I'd feel exactly the same way about these two. Let me point out that despite what my daughters might try and tell you, I did not really want a son when my own kids were born. Oh, it'd been OK, but somehow I think I'd have had to wait until my current age and temperament to really appreciate a little boy. I'd have probably been the same Lunatic Lurking in the Little League bleachers I've railed against almost all my professional life. However, if it just so happens that my grandson Jake turns out to be of the baseball persuasion, I have a foolproof promotional idea for the Cleveland Indians American League Baseball Club. Think how it'll look in big bold letters at the top of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's sports' page or splashed across every billboard in northern Ohio, ''Jake at The Jake!'' ''The Jake'' -- the field where the Tribe now plies its trade at home -- and my ''Jake'' is a major league promotional department's dream come true. As for my Emma K., she does not have to show a lick of athletic aptitude to have her grandfather's heart in her tiny little hands. She's already got a smile big enough to hog tie most of the chest pumps in the state of Texas. But what can a few tennis or golf lessons hurt? Anyway, as you might already have guessed, I spend quite a lot of my extra time down in the Quad-Cities with the grand kids. For Jakey it takes little more than a two-block walk to the park perched on ''Grampa Rich's'' shoulders to thrill both he and his beast of burden. As for Emma we're still hanging on every sound waiting for that first word, which will not disappoint me any at all if it's ''Grampa'' or a reasonably close facsimile there of. I'm more than willing to accept any phonetic expression remotely containing the ''G'' sound. However, I may have to rethink my approach to this socialization stuff of passing on what little I can to a succeeding generation. Recently I spent the entire week baby-sitting for Jakey and E.K. so's their mother, whose usual baby-sitter was on vacation, could go to work. On my last day the ''Jake Man'' climbs up on my lap while watching one of his 126 favorite cartoon shows, all of which I'm painfully familiar with by now. He turns around, looks me in the eye, puts a finger in my chest and says; ''Listen buddy, let's kick some butt,'' just as serious as a heart attack. I know I should have warned his mother before leaving about her son's latest skill, but it might go over just a little bit better if grandpa doesn't step up to the plate on this one. Besides, whose to know I'm the one responsible? All right, we all know that's not going to fly. See, I've only been at this grandfather business for a few years now and I'm already reverting back to thinking like a kid again, coming up with perfectly ridiculous rationalizations to avoid taking the blame. Like the one I used with Jakey during the same baby
sitting foray. ''Grampa! Grampa!'' the little guy says shaking me back to consciousness as I lay on the couch drifting off during the 15th computer animated cartoon show of the morning. ''Grampa, quit snoring,'' he implores.
''Grampa wasn't snoring,'' I try lamely to assure him as I regain my half awake demeanor. ''I was just clearing my throat.'' The truth is, I'd rather be that snoring ''Grampa Rich'' than a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. And I know exactly what you're thinking; like I'd ever be in the running. But at this stage of my life, I could really give a damn. I've already got the prize I want most.