I am fortunate to still have two living grandparents on my dad’s side. I get the strong itch to go see them every 6-8 weeks, because as we all get older I feel the expiration date on my visits encroaching into the present day. They are not going to be with us forever and that stinks. I wish I could see them more often (and sometimes I do), but life, motherhood, work, play, and every other excuse under the sun typically get in the way. However, visiting an older generation of relatives should be a priority because it teaches us so much about family, aging, and where we came from in life.
To Great-Grandmother’s House We Go
Going to see my grandparents in the same house in the same small town, where my dad spent his youth, is fun and educational. My grandpa does not talk much, but his eyes light up whenever he sees my crew and me come in the door. My grandma is the one that is full of great stories. A couple of years ago she found a few boxes of 8 mm recordings and we were able to see all of this old footage of my dad as a young child. We saw him wrestling with his brothers, fishing on vacations, and playing sports. The old home videos spanned a lot of years, and brought up many stories concerning great-uncles, great-aunts, and distant cousins at different life events.
We never have big plans when we visit my grandparents, and it is the simple pleasures that we all enjoy the most. I love hearing old tales and helping my grandma around her house (if she ever lets me). My kids enjoy how great-grandma will make them unlimited glasses of the best chocolate milk and they appreciate that her slices of rhubarb pie are the biggest they will ever see. My grandma still has a pretty good memory and is a talented quilter. She introduced my kiddos to her jigsaw puzzle addiction and has also taught them various card games and how to play dominoes. My oldest enjoys watching her sew and both my daughters jump at the chance to challenge my grandmother to a game of Upwords or Rummikub.
Our quiet visits for coffee and card playing lead to wonderful memories and moments of reminiscing that will hopefully stay with us all throughout our lifetimes.
Cherishing the Memories
My maternal grandparents did not pass away until after I graduated from college and was already married. They unfortunately never got to meet my kids, but they did know my dog and my husband. They attended our wedding, and I still remember my Grandma E. holding my cousin’s little baby (who is now a teenager) at the reception, as she always adored the infant stage of life.
My husband lost three of his four grandparents while he was still in his teens. He was very close with all of them, and each suffered harsh illnesses that made their last few years hard. I never met my husband’s Grandpa D., but I have heard many fun stories. So many in fact, that I feel as though I did know him. He was a fabulous chef and my in-laws work hard to replicate his famous food dishes, and often discuss flavor profiles that remind them of him. They are able to still find connections through his passion for cooking, and they share those connections with me and my children every time they make a home cooked meal reminiscent of Grandpa D.
My spouse only has his paternal grandmother left. She is in her mid-80’s and unfortunately suffered a stroke a few years ago that forced her to leave an independent life in order to move into a nursing home. Seeing her now can be difficult because she is wheelchair bound and her speech has been greatly affected. I wish she was still her spunky old self, the woman who went on vacations, enjoyed camping at the river, and often stayed up later than me at family gatherings. Though, despite the change in venue and with her health, visiting her is still something my family cherishes and makes a priority.
Her facility has a small playground and we love taking her outside when we visit because she can watch the kids swing and hang from monkey bars. She appears to be content, and always nods along and tries to answer questions as we talk about the days or miscellaneous gossip. It is while visiting her that I see how much the other residents in the nursing home have come to enjoy my children.
Their eyes light up and their mouths form the biggest smiles whenever any visitor brings kids to the building. I typically drop by for the morning activity period, which can include hitting balloons or playing bingo. My young son is a crowd pleaser as he chases around the gathering room while being encircled by elderly residents that giggle with joy at his energy. It is the one place he can never be too loud.
A friend of mine is a pharmacist and visits nursing homes on his rounds. I remember him saying a number of years ago that he would take his oldest daughter (who at the time was 5-6 years old) with him on these visits because he felt it was good for her to see the geriatric community. It was even better for that community to see her because my friend’s little girl is polite, talkative, and so very sweet that I am sure she always made the moments brighter at the nursing homes, even if she was only there for a little bit of time.
Visiting grandparents, dropping by a nursing home, or reminiscing about those that are gone help us do right by our kids. It feels good to show them how important the relationship is between grandparents and grandchildren, or in a broader sense introduce them to older generations that have many stories yet to tell. It is a relationship and connection that should never be lost or severed.
How do you stay connected with the older generations in your family tree? Let us know by leaving a comment or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.