I asked my daughter what she remembered of her grandparents. She doesn’t remember much of the older grandmother, who passed away when she was 4 years old. Her older grandfather lived to be 99, and she remembers his hobbies, his tall tales, and most importantly, his presence at family gatherings. She says, “It didn’t matter what he did or did not do with us. What mattered was that he was there.” So, next time you see your grandchildren give them the greatest gift of all: your past, present and future.
Who were you? Where did you grow up? In what age did you grow up? How did you meet your spouse? What kind of family did you have? Was your living situation much different than that of young people today? We need to remember how society used to be, to encourage the positive and discourage the negative. Share the family your grandchildren may have never met (or may not remember meeting because they were too young).
Did you go to college? What did you do after your formal education was completed? What did you train for? Did you get a job in that field? Kids today should be encouraged to do what they want to with the encouragement of their parents. Encourage your grandchildren to respect their own loves and talents. Many high-paying jobs today, especially in the tech industry, are open to those who learned on their own or who took advantage of on-the-job training opportunities.
Do you live close to your grandchildren? Are there any special holidays that you celebrate? Religious holidays? National holidays? Children and grandchildren remember special family get-togethers. When my grandparents lived in San Diego, we drove from Colorado every couple of years to visit them. Being kids going to California in the spring, we looked forward to swimming in the ocean and in the motel pool. It didn’t matter that the ocean current flowed down from Japan and Alaska, and that the motel pool was not heated. We had to go swimming anyway. But not for long… I still remember that cold water!
Do you share important things with your grandchildren, even though those things may not always be good? Grandchildren need to know about your life, even though that life may include illness and infirmity. Do your grandchildren understand that chemotherapy makes your hair fall out, and that chemo and radiation are very tiring and you might not be able to share activities with them that you previously enjoyed?
Are you a grandparent who is still in the workforce? Do your grandchildren know how important and satisfying this job is to you? Do your grandchildren see whether or not you have a “balanced” life — balanced between work time and family time and personal time?
Your grandchildren should know about your hobbies and interests, whether you are a writer, a painter, a sculptor, a musician, a chef, a gardener, a seamstress or quilter, or a community volunteer. Do you go to movies and the theater, and do you sometimes invite your grandchildren? This is the time of your life when you should be making memories with your grandchildren. Be someone special — be yourself!
According to statistics, women live longer than men. So, what do you want to be when you grow up? How do you want to be remembered? Physically, I want to be remembered as a strong, healthy person who enjoyed life. When I eventually become old and infirm, I want the younger members of my family to understand that this, too, is part of life. I want my family to understand that I believe in a future after this life is gone, and that this transition is part of the deal.
The most important thing to give your grandchildren is good, loving memories. Children say, “I wish I had known my grandparents better.” Assure your grandchildren that you are proud of them and will always love them, no matter where they are and where you are. Interact with them. Participating in modern activities may require some brain-stretching on your part. Expand your life and learn from your grandchildren. The next time you see your grandchildren, they will eagerly say, “Grandma, remember when I taught you this?”
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