The Grandma Theory

One of the first classes I took on a college campus was Introduction to Anthropology. I loved that class. We studied the Yanamami Indians, an indigenous tribe living way, way up the Amazon whose men routinely made use of hallucinogens. We looked at the Disengagement Theory of Aging, which says, essentially, many of us die when nobody has a use for us, not when our organs go out of warranty.

We also came across something I recall as the Grandma Theory of Culture. This piece of intellectual speculation started with the observation that only in settlements where archeologists found bones that had seen at least 35 years of living use did they also find signs of social culture. Social culture referred to cave paintings, decorated pottery, jewelry, and other aspects of life “just for pretty,” but also to dwelling groups larger than a single family might build, and evidence of communal activities other than hunting and gathering.

The theory is that when adults started living beyond the bare minimum number of years needed to reproduce and raise children, then the ratio of adults to children tweaked up. When mom was out gathering food with the big kids, grandma could be teaching the little kids a song or a game. When Dad was off hunting, Grandpa might be showing the little boys how to decorate a javelin for maximum magic.

When grandparents were invented, so was leisure time, and thus, so was society beyond the family group, or so goes the theory. The family who had grandparents had a significant advantage over the one that didn’t, and was thus more likely to reproduce those long-lived genes, and compound the advantage.

I like this notion, that an aged population is an asset, and it resonates with my experience. When my daughter was young, she and I would take road trips coast to coast, but I always did the driving, even after she acquired a license.

There came a time after she moved out that she decided to move home to Maryland from Seattle. She threw her stuff in her car and headed east, while I was visiting my parents in San Diego. I was in a panic, to think of my darling child having to drive all that way alone. I dithered, I looked up flights, I considered caravanning with her.

And my dad found it all funny. He pointed out, very gently, “Someday, she’s going to drive cross country without you. This will happen sooner or later, and you can’t stop it.”

As his daughter had driven cross country countless times.

Nobody else could have settled my feathers quite as effectively, but old Stuey has raised seven children, seen a son go off to war, buried a grandchild, watched his children marry and divorce, and seen great-grandchildren come into the world. I could not learn that a parent’s lot is often to trust and pray from anybody else, and thank goodness, he was (and is) around to offer his wisdom.

In foster care court, time after time, it’s the grandparent who steps up to look after the child, the grandparent who speaks the truth when everybody else wants to take an easy dodge. Many elders have a courage the rest of us can only admire, and that’s probably why Percival and Esther Windham show up in every book involving their children.

Was there an older person whose presence steadied you at some point? One whose example or advice stood you in good stead?

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Lady Eve’s Indiscretion.

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58 comments on “The Grandma Theory

  1. I’d have to comment just because you posted Sean Connery in a kilt Be still my over beating heart! I’m the gezzerette in this situation. I have always enjoyed my family members with age visited with them more often than some of my younger friends. What I find is I think I’m mainly an old soul. I loved to look thru their pictures and hear their tales, I loved to spend sunny days visiting the family graves and enjoying those family dinners. When the one’s with age had passed suddenly the enjoyment was gone, you don’t always see it immediately because the family is still there, just a piece of the heart is missing. Sometimes the best pieces. Ah, Grace Burrowes, You know I have Lady Eve preordered! LOL

    • My grandma was on hand until I was about twenty, and she was such a comfort. She didn’t get rattled by the things that seemed to my adolescent self horrendous. And she liked me. At a time when I did not like myself, to around somebody who liked me–anybody who liked me–was a great gift.

      • Grace Burrowes you get tired of me telling you I like you Lol. Most of my family members I married into as I lost my own family way too early. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy the created families in my favorite books. I’m glad your Grandmother was there for you. I’m also glad my only grandchild has a wonderful grandmother near her as I live half the country away. We are blessed Grace good when we remember that. You blogger you thanks for good insight.

  2. My mom’s mom was the best grandmother. She was a lot of fun, but lived several hours away. My surrogate grandparents were the Stewarts, an older couple who lived next door. I adored them and cut a path through the shrubs from my house to theirs. Anytime my mom lost me, she knew I was with Mrs. Stewart. She always gave me “hot gum” (Big Red) and little cans of orange juice.

  3. When I was younger a friend of mines father helped me see my value. He alway said “don’t cut yourself short, take credit where credit is due and don’t belittle what you have a god given talent to do”. He will be sorely missed.

    • I wish we had more Dads-at-large. Sometimes the direct approach brings with it a sense of truth. One of my older brothers once told me, “You were never fat as a kid, you were just big.”
      Not a delicate sentiment, but recall that I was often thought to be older than my next sister up, two years my senior, because I was (and am) taller than she is. I needed the guy’s perspective.

  4. My Mother’s mother, I called her Nan, was always positive and encouraging to me. She lifted me up and was rarely critical of me. I loved her so much. She died a long time ago. I miss her!

    • And even when she was critical of you, she loved you. When we look at foster kids, two things predict if they’ll have a shot at a decent life. One is an ability to engage in healthy, fun recreation (about which I can rant endlessly, because we spend no effort to encourage this). The second predictor of success is whether they have somebody like Nan in their corner, somebody who loves them, supports them, and cares about them in a healthy way.
      Grades, looks, race, intelligence, church affiliation, and many other factors don’t contribute to success or happiness half as much as a Nan does.

      You’re right to treasure her.

  5. both set s of my granparents lived 1000 miles away – so missed spending any real time with them. all are gone now – I do have some memories and photos from the few times we could get together. still miss them greatly.

    • My grandparents lived only a few hours away, but if we were to spend time with them, they usually had to come to us, which they did. Glad you have some memories, Vickie, and take good care of those photos!

  6. I’m a geezerette and love helping out with my grandchildren. Because of severe arthritis there are times when I can’t pick up or even hold my 2 year old granddaughter or 2 month old grandson but I do my best. When my daughter’s ex walked out on her, and took their girls, I immediately moved in with her, I think he thought I just ignore the situation. Once the girls were back with her I stayed and when she and her second husband and the 4 girls needed a place to live about 18 months ago they came to me. I adore all of my grandchildren and want to help out whenever possible.

    • Molly, I’d say you’ve earned your fairy god-grandmother wings. Your family owes you a great debt–imagine where they’d be without you. As a family law attorney, I can promise you your support of your daughter made a big difference in any custody case.

      My mom said some of her best memories came from being a kid during the Depression. Because her family was in bad straits, they moved in with some cousins. All the kids became close, and sorely regretted when times got better, and separate households established.

  7. Three of my grandparents lived until 83 (my one grandfather I never met when he died in his early 40’s from appendicitis and pneumonia). My mother is 90 and the center of our family. My sister married young and had her children young and now just had her 8th grandchild. I married young but had my children later and as yet, still not a grandparent. Life is funny that way. My sister never wanted to be a grandmother and I do. It possibly may still happen but my two girls have their own lives to live. We all make our own paths. I am grateful beyond words for my mother!

    • My mom’s 89, my dad 92. I’m not a grandma yet, and probably won’t be for a quite while, if ever, though my darling girl is 24. I’m a big believer in that Disengagement Theory I mentioned. The fact that you still appreciate Mom is probably a significant factor in her longevity, particularly when she’s without a spouse.
      And meanwhile, you can practice being a grandma by being a great aunt, right?

  8. I was just like Peggy when I was younger. I loved being around my Grandparents and Great Aunts and Uncles, just listening to their stories, looking at pictures, taking it all in. I was one of those rare teenagers whom older people loved and I had so many adopted grandparents to love. Now I have a lot of adopted parents and still have a few adopted grandparents as well.
    Of course nothing could compare to my own grandparents. I was blessed to have a grandfather (dad’s dad) who lived just a few house away and came to eat with us many times during the week. He even came on some of our vacations with us. He was so funny and could B.S. with the best of them and loved to flirt with all the ladies. He passed away unexpectedly the Summer I turned 14, he was just 69. My grandmother (mom’s mom) lived in the next town and was only 20 minutes away. She would come and spend the weekend at our house about once a month. She was the sweetest, kindest lady and she was known to get the giggles at the most unexpected times which would then turn into laughter with tears streaming down her face. She lost a sister to a car accident at the age of 20, had a foster/adopted child whose parent’s got married a couple years later come an take her back, watched her husband waste away and die from prostate cancer, her 30 year old son was killed by a drunk driver and through it all her Faith remained strong. She passed away from a brain tumor at the age of 70 the summer I was turning 16. I didn’t have my grandparents for very long but the impact they had on my life is amazing. My husband is blessed in the fact that both sets of his grandparents are still alive, but he even so he has not spent the time with them that I did with mine.
    I am so thankful that my parents are such a part of my boys’ lives and that they are able to see them weekly. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my parents close by to help both me and my boys. When my Twins were first diagnosed with autism we were at doctors and specialist at least once a week and I had a newborn baby as well. y mom went with me to all the doctors appointments while my dad took care of my other son from the age of 3 weeks on. Most men have no use for brand new babies but my dad absolutely loves them. When both me and my sister in-law had our babies it was my dad you would find sneaking into the hospital to just sit in our rooms holding the baby at 6 in the morning or coming in the afternoon to take over so we could nap. When I had the Twins 6 weeks early and had to leave them at the hospital in the NICU it was my dad who drove me to the hospital everyday to see them and help with the feeding. Imagine a 6’4″ 215lb man with a little 4lb baby in his hand. PRICELESS. My parents are truly wonderful grandparents.
    There I go writing a novel again.

    • OK, I’ll read that novel and write you one back. When I was expecting my daughter, I was single, working full time, and going to law school five nights a week (I do not recommend this to anybody). The pregnancy turned high risk, and the docs wanted me to spend weeks in a hospital, which I could not afford, and which I could not believe would be conducive to controlling my blood pressure.
      My mom has an RN, and suggested an alternative: She’d fly across country in the dead of winter and bunk in with me, doing the nursing thing, and keeping me out of the hospital. She stayed until the baby was born, went home for a few weeks while I was on leave, then reappeared for another six weeks so my daughter didn’t have to go to day care quite as early.

      Mom’s support was invaluable, and by God, if my nearly-thirty-year-old daughter ever needs me like that, I’m THERE.

      • Sounds like the end of my pregnancy with the Twins. My mom isn’t an RN, but she did spend as much time as she could with me at the hospital before the Twins were born. At the time she was “daycare” for my 4 year old niece and 2 year old nephew. It is quite humbling to have your mom bathe you in a shower at the age of 25 because you can’t do it yourself. She is an amazing woman just like her mother was and I only hope that I can and am just a little bit like them both.

  9. When I was younger we had and elderly neighbor, Hannah, that I would visit. I would hear her yell “Here kitty, kitty,” when she hadn’t seen her cats for a while and I would go over to help look for them. They were usually holed up in the garage and had to be coaxed down. Often she would offer me a glass of iced tea or a bowl of ice cream afterwards. I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember enjoying the time together.

    • Awww. Not just an old lady, but an old cat lady. I keep telling my parents to get some sort of pet–a dog, a cat, a bird, something they have to take care of, but I think two things hold them back: They worry that failing health will mean they eventually can’t look after even a cat, and they worry they might not outlive their pet. Mom and Dad Burrowes are tired of burying friends, and I have to respect that.

  10. My grandfather, believe it or not, was the person who got me hooked on romance novels. He loved them and that was something I could share with him. He died of cancer (caused by agent orange exposure in Vietnam) when I was 16. I was never really close to any of my other grandparents. I do have an adopted grandmother, though. Her name is Lena and she is one of the sweetest souls I have ever met. I take her to her appointments because her family is so far away. I love her to pieces. Thanks for the sexy Connery pic!

    • I know a few guys who read romance, and even one or two who read historical romance, but they are rare. And as for Sir Sean… I forget what the occasion was, but I posted that pick on FB page. The Like button about glowed, and my reach went through the roof.

      He’s still got it, and then he wears that formal kilt. Le Beeg Sigh.

  11. Hi Grace,
    I have come to Australia in 2005 to live with my husband. We settled in the Adelaide area and in the beginning the novelty to live with my hubby made it alright, that I cut off the closer connection to family and friends left behind in the old country. In the 21st century staying connected should not be such a problem with internet and phones but it would not be enough in the long haul. Then through connections that I slowly built here I met one of my best friends I have here now. She and her husband are in their 70ies and we got adopted on the spot. They helped us through rough patches with their support and being grounded in a marriage full of love gave a good example how to deal with each other better. I am glad that fate brought us together for I never had a close relationship to my own grandparents (mainly due to the circumstances that our family was scattered over two Germanies in the 70s and 80s).

    • Supposedly, raising a child takes an entire village. I think having a happy marriage takes an entire village too, and sometimes, you have to create that village out of sheer ingenuity. Glad you found some support when you really needed it.

      My daughter is 1600 miles away, my parents closer to 3000. Yes the internet is a marvelous thing, but the distance is real, too.

  12. LovIng your fabulous blog and reading your comments particularly about lawyering and family! Our grandmother had such a gift for appreciating the beautiful qualities of all her grandchildren and making each one sound and feel so special. Boy do I ever miss her! I treasure many older folks, of course I am one now, and I do believe that came from that early connection.

    • Cousin, delighted to find you here, and on this topic in particular. Grandma had a kind of dauntlessness that I can only appreciate in hindsight. Losing her mom way too early, giving birth to Uncle Allen in a tent, dealing with the Depression, seeing two sons in the military, thinking the child rearing was all but done and then, “Hello, Uncle Mike!” and being widowed… Her life wasn’t easy, but her her smiles came easily.

      Grandma Lavelle was my first encounter with an dauntless spirit AND a sweet little old lady all wrapped into one. A role model, indeed.

      • I didn’t know about the tent but I’m not surprised. Have you caught the drama of “Call the Midwives”? I enjoyed the series and picked up the book which said that hospital births in England were very rare before 1945. I’m sure the same is true here before 1930. I heard something about how they lived is something like a tent in Colorado. The things we take for granted would have been such luxuries.

  13. I had 2 Grandmother’s who were a wonderful part of my life. My Grandma Inga was my great-grandfather’s second wife and actually just a few years older than my other grandmother. She lived in the same town I grew up in – she was my “tea and cookies” Grandma. I had my own tea cup and saucer her house, she taught me to play gin rummy and always baked me my own little loaf of banana bread for Christmas. She told the most wonderful stories of growing up in a big Swedish farm family in Calgary. She was an absolute cornerstone of my life when I was young. She was a beautiful example of generosity and grace. The other was my Nana. She was one of the brightest joys of my life. She raised 7 children (and lost 4) in what would now be considered abject poverty, but the only impact that had on her life that I could see was that it made her one of the least materialistic people I have ever known – things were of no importance to her, but she loved people. She never had a bad thing to say about anyone and spread joy and contentment wherever she was. She had a wry sense of humor, one without an ounce of bite in it. She taught me, by example the benefit of living in the moment and finding the blessings in what you have.
    She loved to read. In the last few years of her life she had a loss of short term memory and she would joke about being able to read the same book over and over again and it being brand new to her every time.

    • My dad’s boss’s wife, Ada Josephson, was another Swedish farm girl who loved children. A day at Ada’s meant baking a batch of spritz cookies, playing Concentration (I was too young for rummy), and feeling special. Ada is gone now, but her children are particularly attentive to my parents. The love goes on…

  14. My mom was a wonderful, caring woman. My father, however, was abusive. As a child and teenager, I couldn’t understand my mom’s reasons for ever marrying him and then staying with him. I was pretty resentful and not so nice to mom even into my 20’s. When my father died, I thought mom would fall apart, but she fooled me. She picked herself up, and we eventually became as close as close can be. She died much too young, and left a big hole in my heart. I’m so thankful, though, that we were able to have those loving years, and that I let her know what she meant to me.

    • Abusive situations are simple on one level. The right thing to do is leave. On another level, particularly decades ago, it wasn’t simple at all. Leave to go where, while you live on what, and use whose money to deal with the legalities (which were not geared to protecting battered spouses or their children). I am so glad you and your mom had some good years. My guess is her widowed years were among her happiest.

  15. While I adore my grandparents very much, as I lived with them for three years in my youth while my mother went to get a degree, the person who influenced me the most is someone who is old enough to be my grandfather, but is actually a confidant and close friend. We first met at my aunt’s wedding years back, where he was a guest. He thought I was an interesting kid, and later I started emailing him. The help he’s given me as a virtual stranger then was immense, as I was struggling with beginning adulthood and worried about the future. To date, he might be one of the select few who can really understand my worries and easily assuage them and make me double back in laughter. So, I’ll express my thanks to my friend Tom, here again.

    • Mary, you’re getting at what I was trying to say about the elders being a comfort. This guy doesn’t have to step and solve your problems, doesn’t have to DO anything to influence the challenges in your life directly. He listens to you, he cares about you, and he’s living proof that storms can be weathered, even big storms.
      And because he can serve that function for you, his life has meaning too. He’d probably say he hasn’t done a thing any friend wouldn’t do, and he regards you as nothing but a blessing in his life.
      I love it when that happens.

  16. I love that blog, Grace, thank you so much for coming up with that topic.
    I can’t say that I had grandparents for advice and wisdom, though I did have them, but as they and my parents got children quite late, I was still a child and not willing to take elders’ advice, when the ones left could give that; and later, as I would have taken it, they were too old for proper conversation. But I always loved to be around my maternal grandma (as she was the last surviving one), which I very loved and who died about a year ago. I did learn some things from her though which I will keep in my heart.
    But who was always around me were and still are my parents, and I especially appreciated my dad’s advices.
    What most important at the moment for me is, that my children have all their 4 grandparents, who take a lot of time for them. I am grateful that my kids know them and they know my kids, and I can see that they both profit from it. And though I see many differences in how they treat the kids and how I do, I can see their love, their patience and what they pass on to them. A big and devoted family is just great!

    • My mom was in her forties when she had me, which means my parents are older than some of my contemporaries’ grandparents. My dad served in WWII, both parents recall the Depression, they sent a son off to Vietnam, and have seen… nearly two dozen presidential elections. People that age have perspective, and yet, given a chance most of them will happily choose to spend their remaining time in the company of children. That says something to me.

  17. When I was born, my parents were dirt poor. My dad was still in medical school. My maternal grandparents fed and housed me and my mother for the first four years of my life, until my dad finished his training and started working. My grandmother had my mother work for her, so she had a little money to help support my father, but more importantly they helped raise me, from potty training to stopping me from biting all my cousins (I may have been a troublesome child). My grandmother, in particular, has always been an inspiration. She learned how to drive in her 40s, taught herself knitting and crocheting in her 50s and in her 80s, started teaching classes at the local college! I can’t imagine where my family would be without her love and support.

    • Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” He was wrong. Home is where, when you have to go there, they’re more than happy to take you in, for as long as you need a place to stay. My parents STILL let me know that if I ever get tired of Maryland winters, I’m welcome not just to visit, but to live with them.
      And all I can do in the face of such generosity, is pass it along to my daughter, as your grandparents passed it on to your entire family.

  18. My grandparents lived next door for most of my childhood. It was one of the greatest (unintentional) gifts that my parent gave my brothers and I. We spent the weekends at their house baking, playing, and learning how to build tree houses. Although they now live in another state, I still call my grandparents. My grandmother gives the best advice, and I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s gone. I do know how fortunate I am to still have my grandparents, and I hope I have them for many more years.

    • Delia, one of the things that surprised me when I spent a summer in Germany after college was that most families still lived in the same town, if not the same neighborhood, and everybody got together at Oma and Opa’s for Sunday dinner. How could such an arrangement not contribute to sense of identity and security? While I grew up, lucky to have relatives in the same state, and at present, my nearest relative is 600 miles away.

      You were VERY lucky to have grandparents so close–and so were your parents.

  19. My maternal Grandma was a sweet, soft, petite, Mrs Claus come to life. We did crafts with ribbons, pins, sequins; baked; read and read some more. Her Harlequin Presents lured me into romance reading, international travel, and so much more. I can tie my shoes thanks to her being more stubborn, determined, and wily than 4yr old me. I also have a train case of the most gorgeous Barbie clothes made from scraps, so she needs credit for my vintage fashionista genes. Her hugs are still available in the prized sweaters she knit me, and the lovely afghans she crocheted – nothing feels better on a winter night or sick day. Eventually her “say something nice or say nothing” took root too.
    Underneath all those moments she taught me that being quiet and bookish was just fine, as was quietly going your own way to do what needs doing. Summing up her independence: at 93 she fell, broke her back, spent six months in a nursing home doing rehab, and then moved back home! She smiled, nodded and went her way.

    • Let’s all grow up to be like her! Or my dad: At 91, his appendix ruptured, and yikes, things looked bad. He was home–hospital, rehab, what have you–within a few weeks, and has announced that he’s done with hospitals.

  20. My grandmother Mary has been a steady source of comfort and advice. She grew up on an indian reservation in northern Minnesota and is one of the best story tellers I know. Her favorite things to do are read, sing and play the banjo, but unfortunately her eyesight isn’t very good anymore and arthritis prevents her from playing very much. I try to write her a letter every month and she calls me when she gets it to reply. 🙂

    • Get her stories! My grandma grew up in Leadville, CO, at the height of its silver boom. Molly Brown’s husband was sitting in Grandma’s parlor when he heard that his wife had survived the sinking of the Titantic, and that’s just one of her stories. My older brother was shrewd enough to sit down with Grandma and a tape recorder when she was about 80, and we treasure that legacy.

  21. Love this entry and all its comments. While I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up physically near to my grandparents, I always thought of my mom’s mom’s house at that Safe Place I could go if something bad happened. I loved that house in small-town Illinois.

    We are more than blessed with my husband’s Grandmom, who we hope will still be here for her 100th birthday this June. She has seen so much life and history, it just boggles the imagination. She still lives in her own house (with my MIL) and tells great stories. She lived through the flu epidemic (which took her dad), being shipped off to an aunt in Philadelphia from the Eastern Shore, she worked in a munitions factory during WWII, worked for most of her life, got married and raised Tom’s mom … and has always maintained the house where everyone is welcome if you need a roof over your head and food in front of you at night. She values family and hard work, and embodies the ability to soldier on. She’s the best example for us and our kids about how to live life fully and well.

    She has always, always read and done crossword puzzles. She loves stories about Hollywood and the mafia. If that’s what reading does for you, we should all subscribe to Reader’s Digest!!

    KB

    • This is interesting, Kristen, because my grandmother was very attuned to mafia doings, and was forever claiming that this or that fellow had to have connections with “The Interests.” I expect half the time she was right.

  22. I am 45 and my amazing grandma is alive and kicking. I am the oldest grandchild and I am named after her and I count it an honor. She has always been fiesty, hardworking and full of kisses. Her life has always been a shining example of determination, love and fun. She grew up in the depression and I value her wisdom above all else.

  23. My mom-in-law was a miracle of love and support. For 25 years I luxuriated in her generous spirit. She had the ability to see the best qualities in individuals, and to speak directly to those qualities in a way that made the listeners want to go out and chase after their own wonderfulness.

    Early on she nourished stressed teenagers dropping by her doorstep and even housed a few confused young adults before they figured out what to do in life. (One ended up forming Greenpeace a year or two after moving out.) At age 56 her husband died of cancer and she regrouped, starting a 25-year career as a director of volunteers for Hospice, teaching hundreds of people how to be kind to the dying as well as how to be kind to the families they were leaving behind. Meanwhile she nurtured all the volunteers, realizing they were there for profound reasons of their own.

    She hated it that when she herself entered her last year (age 87) I had to quit my job to help take care of her during her last bedridden months. But what a gift that intimate time was for me! My understanding of human frailty versus strength of character increased tenfold as well as my sense that life is what you make of it, no matter what. Her last meals always revolved around passions… for panettone, for coffee, and for large teetering-over-the-brink martinis. The last sound she uttered was a giggle.

  24. Aii. Here’s one more short thought about mom-in-law… She’d do these great but very basic stick figure cartoons, saying she couldn’t draw worth beans. After she died, in my grief, I started putting stick figures in my art… and now I’m making cartoons as well… a whole new blog world of them. In a way I feel she and I are still giggling together. So, yes, she was an immensely influential elder in my life… ongoing.

  25. My Mother’s parents lived with us from the time I was three years old when my Abuelo (Grandpa for you non-Spanish speakers) had a stroke and became a quadroplegic and was unable to speak. My Abuela (Grandma) was so taken up with his care that for the next eight years everything else came in second, including us grandchildren. Not surprising, after he passed away, she declined until she, too, passed away.

    Dad’s Father (Jaja) had passed away while I was still a wee bitty baby and I never knew him. Dad’s Mother, my Babcia (Grandma in Polish), lived 3000 miles away in Buffalo, NY. She would come visit every few years, but as she got older, those visits became too much for her to handle. While we did reconnect years later, I missed out on the “Babcia Experience” as a child. While my East Coast cousins tell me I was lucky (something about onions and brooms…) I never had the close relationship with her that they did.

    As I grew older, I would read and hear stories of Grandparents and always wondered who these mythical beings were. Looking over old photos and and scanning my even older and fuzzy memories, I realized it wasn’t just ONE person who influenced me, it was ALL of them combined that had an impact on me.

    From my Abuela, I learned that what I thought was indifference towards us grandchildren was really her never ending love towards her husband. From my Abuelo, I learned the value of extreme patience as he consistantly dealt with a rambunctious toddler (me!) who was always running away from him in stores and removing her clothing. From conversations with my Babcia, a concentration camp survivor, I learned what it is to be strong when the world is against you, a 16yo girl, and you are “mother” to all the younger girls in your barracks. From her, I learned what TRUE LOVE is as she told me about how Jaja, a Polish soldier, fell in love with a young lady and broke her out of said concentration camp.

    From both sets of Grandparents I learned what it is to perservere as refugees in a strange country, not knowing the language or customs and making a good life for your family. They taught me that all that really matters is having a loving family to see you through hard times (and there were some extremely hard times for them) and as long as everyone is safe, healthy and together you can overcome anything life throws at you.

    • What courageous, determined, phenomenal roots you have. What stories they’ve given you, and what examples of the human spirit triumphing. One of my sisters-in-law had a Babcia– little old lady who commanded every room she waddled into. Nobody messed with Babcia, and yet on the few occasions we met, I never heard her raise her voice.
      What amazed me most about her what that given a history much like that of your Polish granny, Babcia laughed easily and often. Another Wow.

  26. Although my grandparents didn’t live with us growing up, the grandma theory was well at work in my married life. My children had the benefit of my mother-in-law as their stabilizing influence when they were young. Between her and my father-in-law, they were the ones who cared for them after school so that they would not come home to an empty house. They fed them and cared for them until we came home from work and scooped them up all safe and sound. My own mother still provides that care for my nieces and nephews since my siblings live close to her. It really is a comfort to working parents to know that someone loving is caring for one’s children in our absence and to have that someone by your own parent is a great relief. I owe a great deal to my husband’s parents, especially his mom while I needed her it was my children who were the biggest benficiaries of such care. Now that they are grown they mention to me how much they cherish having come home to grandma’s and all that entailed.

    • My mom was able to do this for my sister, who had four kids. The other grandma pitched in too, and between them, they saved that family a fortune in day care. The contribution is far greater than monetary though, and my mom would be the first to say that looking after her grandkids a few days a week was a perfect use of her mothering skills without being overwhelming.

      And I know having family nearby would have made my own daughter’s path much easier. Twenty-twenty hindsight!

  27. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the company of my paternal grandparents a lot. Though at first, it was obvious that Grandma favored my older brother, Grandpa favored me. But I know that I am loved by both of them. I was about 14 years old when Grandpa passed on. Grandma did not want to stay alone in her room so I became sort of her companion in the evening. While I do my homework, she plays solitaire, oftentimes, I join her. She taught me how to sew and embroider, how to clean and scrub the floor. We don’t sleep in her room. We bring our cots in the living room and huddle together. We shared stories. By this time,other grandchildren are out and about. It is not important if she still favors big brother or other cousins. I get to spend my evenings with her.

    Then I had to go to college. I have to leave home, that means I have to leave her and I did. Though I made sure I visit her when I go home but I got busy with my new life. I finished college, found work, got married, went abroad and then came the news that she passed away.

    I thought of her every now and then. She comes to mind when there are occasions and moments that triggers my memory that I did certain activities with her. I remember her face, her smile and I still hear her voice. I do thank God that she still lives in me and I want her to know that I remember her fondly.

    • I never knew my paternal grandfather, but mom’s dad was a Type I diabetic by the time I got to know him. Fifty years ago, diabetic care was not so sophisticated, and I’m sure fluctuating blood sugar contributed to his moodiness. I only really got to know Grandma in the seven years in which she was a widow.
      She loved her husband and she missed him, but I also thing those years were happy for her, in part because she no longer needed to fret over his Himself and his ill health.

      And as I age, I look and more and more like Grandma. Yikes!

  28. I will immediately grasp your rss feed as I can’t find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please allow me know in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  29. Although I am a grandmother now myself ( of 10 ) my own mother was a terrific grandma: she made memories my kids won’t forget. Once she dragged in a large box and filled it with dolls that she found at garage sales so my daughter would have them to play with. Old spoons made great shovels if she was taking them to the park. My dad had always told me the story of Hansel and Gretel: he knew it by heart and didn’t use a book. Later when I had a little golden book with pictures of this story….I became a reader for life! He also always had time to draw a picture for us, a cat sitting on a block of ice with the cartoon caption: “my tail is told”, was a good joke too! They didn’t buy toys for the grandchildren but the button box tin could keep them busy playing with buttons! Cats were always welcome, so usually one or two found a home with us…and when kittens were born, we enjoyed them too! My grandkids today enjoy my cat Dasha, although she is strictly a house cat and neutered. A visit from my adult grandchildren, or even a longer stay before they embark on a new job or apartment of their own helps keep me engaged in their lives also. My sons wife has a 4 year old, who I babysat one day a week while his mom worked, and now a soon to be one year old, and I’m delighted with his giggles and dimples! Looks like there’s more fun to come!