Of all the advice that my father’s grandmother passed along to him, the one he chose to share routinely is still etched in my memory. Interestingly, what he shared had nothing to do with growing up in segregated Mississippi, admonitions about police brutality (although I am certain those were made too), or about future career choices. Instead it had to do with ironing. One day I watched my father iron a dress shirt for church and asked him how he learned to iron. He told me that his mother taught him when he was very young – she also taught him to cook, wash his clothes, and sew. She insisted that he learn because she said, “when you grow up and marry, I want you to do so out of love, not because you need someone to take care of you”. As an 8-year old, I was more concerned about Jim Palmer’s ERA than girls so the advice passed over my head. I am certain that he considered this advice an irreplaceable gift.
My memories of my grandmother center around good food and conversations that usually took place in the kitchen. There were never many proclamations or bold admonitions about what I should do with my life. However, each moment with her I learned something; how to treat others, how to engage in a conversation with adults (or how to be quiet when the adults were talking), how to make a meal without a recipe or measuring cup, and how to appreciate each day because tomorrow isn’t promised. Of course, my parents offered many of the same messages, but there was something about hearing it from my grandmother that made it meaningful. The richness of her experiences and the informality of our conversations (unburdened by the pressures of homework, chores, t-ball practices, etc.), made the time spent with her mini life lessons.
My children are fortunate because they live in the same state as their grandparents, and at this young age have lost only one. At every opportunity I try to find occasions for them to spend time with them (okay, sometimes this is for my benefit as well), and to listen to their stories, their joys, and life’s challenges. As families move farther apart, it is not uncommon for children today to have phone – or iChat – relationships with grandparents in other states or countries. However distant they are there is something truly special about that intergenerational sharing. And while grandparents may not understand how to text or instant message, they can offer an insight into their shared history their grandchildren won’t soon forget.
Your children may have grandparents near by, far away, or simply “grandfriends” that are important to them. Regardless, I am hopeful that they will find in their helpful advice something that resonates and leads them on an honest career path, helps them develop a commitment to service or to those less fortunate, or clears the way for them to find their true love.
We look forward to seeing our wonderful grandparents on Friday.