20. Sweet Sixteen Surprise
Lauren Blank, from Keller, Texas, had a sweet 16th birthday like no other. The teenager’s birthday was this past March (2017) and upon her special day, her grandfather decided to surprise her with a gift that not only melted her heart, but the hearts of many across the internet as well.
19. Growing Up
Lauren Blank had spent her entire 16 years growing up in Keller, Texas, a suburban city in Tarrant County, in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. Keller advertises itself as “successfully balancing big-city comforts with small-town charm.” She grew up with her mom, dad, siblings, and she was very close to her grandparents throughout her childhood.
18. Grandpa’s Plan
Having grown up close to her grandparents, it was even more surprising when it was brought to her attention that her grandpa had been planning something special to surprise her with for her 16th birthday. Most 16-year-olds receive typical gifts from their grandparents like money for college, clothes, or maybe something for school. But her grandpa kept hinting that it was something she wasn’t going to be able to guess.
17. The Most Special Gift Of All
It turns out, according to her grandpa, he had been planning this surprise for years! Blank didn’t receive a piece of jewelry or some cash for her birthday like many 16-year-olds do, what her grandfather did for her was far more sentimental than that. And many would agree that his gift was worth far more than any piece of jewelry ever would be.
16. Ron Petrillo’s Legacy
Ron Petrillo, 72, had always been very close with his granddaughter, Blank. Even back when she was a baby the two of them had a very special and unique bond. Blank went to school at the age of 5, but in the few years before starting education, she had spent every single day of her childhood with her grandfather. Ron, from an early age, was a full-on father figure for Lauren.
15. Games and Memories
Because Ron and Lauren were like father and daughter in her early ages, that meant they would spend loads of time together creating those important early childhood memories. It was during those special years that Ron decided to do something to document those priceless moments and memories, and it all started with a notebook and pen.
14. Over the Years
As the years past and Lauren grew up and went off to Elementry school, and then onto middle school, it had become a little harder to watch his little granddaughter grow up. However, Dan had never forgotten the good old days. He had been keeping his project a secret for years and years and he was waiting to reveal what he had done to Lauren and the rest of the family, but only when the time was right.
13. Deciding the Right Time
“I had three dates in mind – I had 16, 21, and then when I was gone,” Dan told TODAY in March 2017. “I thought, if she was straightened out and was being a good person and was being nice to people, that was important. So I decided to give it to her on her 16th birthday.” Dan spoke to Today about how he decided that perhaps her early teenage years could use a dose of her past and the childhood memories they had shared together. Teenage years can be hard and for a father figure like Dan, he felt like it was the right thing to do for Lauren at the time.
So there it was, her 16th birthday.
12. Notebook Number 1
So when the big day came, he finally handed Lauren the gift that he had kept to himself since she was just five years old. He handed Lauren, the birthday girl who was now almost all grown up into her young adult self, three notebooks, each with a number on it. The first one had writing on the front which read, “Lauren book number 1.”
Its contents will warm your heart.
11. Grandpa’s Journals
At first, Lauren didn’t fully understand what the notebooks were about. But upon opening the first one, she quickly realized how special and irreplaceable the gift truly was. The first line of her grandfather’s journal said: “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 she read on, she knew these would become her favorite gift—ever.
10. The First Journal Entry
The first entry in his journal was dated February 16, 2003. Lauren and her other family members couldn’t help but let the tears stream down their faces and the read the contents of the journal with her. They were all in shock as they read and understood the touching sentiment behind these notebooks. There were pages and pages for Lauren to read and relive her early childhood memories.
9. Uncovered Memories
Her grandpa’s three notebooks were filled with wonderful memories from the years that Lauren and her grandfather had spent together. When Lauren reflected on her times as a little kid before going off to school she realized how pure and fun her life was. The teenager told TODAY how her grandfather reminded her of one particular silly game they played.
8.The ‘See Ya’ Game
In the notebook, Dan wrote to Lauren about the “See Ya” game – a game that the two of them made up when she was about the age of 5, that involved Lauren’s grandfather pretending to run into a wall repeatedly to make her laugh. “He would run into the wall over and over and over and I would die,” the 16-year old told TODAY.
As she read on, more memories flooded her thoughts.
7. Elevator Alligator
Not only were there dozens of entries about the games they created and the adventures they went on, but there were plenty of other wonderful memories scrawled down in the notebook, too. Dan wrote about a particular store that the two of them used to visit. It had an elevator that Lauren enjoyed going up and down in, although she referred to it as an “alligator.”
6. How the Journals Came to Be
According to TODAY, Dan would take the opportunity to record all his favorite memories when Lauren was having a nap. It took him three years of writing, and he documented 185 pages of wonderful memories for Lauren and the rest of her family to enjoy now that she’s old enough to appreciate them.
Although she knew the writing wouldn’t go on forever, it posed the question, “Why did he stop?”
5. Why He Stopped Writing
When Lauren became five, Dan stopped writing the notebooks because by that point she was at school and they didn’t spend as much time together. However, thankfully, Dan decided to give them to his granddaughter before it was too late. As he continued to get older and his health started to fade he feels that he nearly waited too long.
4. Almost Too Late
Dan had even considered giving the books to Laurens’s mom so that his granddaughter could have them when he passed away as his health was dwindling. But he had a change of heart and decided that he wanted to be able to share and laugh about the memories together with Lauren while he still could.
3. Thank You Papa
Lauren couldn’t have been more surprised and grateful for the gift. “I truly don’t think that I will ever have a gift that is greater than this,” she told Fox News Boston in March 2017. The man who she affectionately calls “Papa,” had been “one of the most influential people” in the teenager’s life, she told Huffington Post in March 2017.
2. The Twitter Phenomenon
Lauren continued to share photographs of the notebooks on Twitter, and the post had gone viral with it being retweeted more than 160,000 times. But she deflects any suggestion that it’s made her famous: “It wasn’t me being famous, it was about my grandpa’s love for me becoming famous,” she told Daily Mail in March 2017.
1. Melting Hearts Across the Internet
This emotional and heartwarming story has the power to inspire other people to spend more time with their loved ones, and that’s exactly what Dan hopes will happen. Speaking to TODAY, he said, “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.”