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The Evolution of Grandparenting

The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting

04/14/19 • 18 min

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Grandparenting has evolved from three generations ago when we, as grandparents, were grandchildren. Where we live, where our grands live, who travels, how often--the expectations are not the same. What is the one factor that had changed grandparenting the most? Explore this with Emily Morgan and her friend Mickey, whose pipe-smoking grannny makes for a great story.

Also in Episode 1:

  • Relationship Yoga: Send The Letter
  • Passing On Your Passions: Making Space for Gatherings
  • Great Works for Your Grands: "The Duel" by Eugene Field

Send The Letter (Emily's essay)

Just recently my grandmother died. We believed she was one year shy of her 103rd birthday when she passed away, but when we went the Register of Wills, her paperwork confirmed she had been born 2 years earlier. So, in that reality she was one day shy of her 105th birthday. That’s a long life. And I would like to say it was a long life well- lived, but in all honesty, I was quite removed from her life and couldn’t say either way.

Later, going through her papers, I was keenly aware of how little I knew my grandparents. I grew up a 10-hour drive away from that set of grandparents. We visited occasionally, maybe once a year, and I don’t remember them ever traveling to visit us. They would send us a Christmas and birthday card with a $5 check. The connection to my grandparents was fairly transactional, to say the least.

That was why I was surprised, that in one of the piles on her kitchen table, I discovered a note from her written to me and tucked into a card I had sent her when I was a young adult. It read something like “Thank you for the fruit and for thinking of me,” Love, Nana. It was very short, matter of fact and not very newsy. But I recognized her handwriting, and the word love was used.

Had I received that note in the mail right after it was written, I’m pretty sure I would have been so grateful to get it and see those words. You see, as an adult, I ordered and sent my grandparents Harry and David fruit every year for years. After my grandfather died, I continued to send fruit and other gifts to my grandmother. I did it partly out of love and partly out of respect for their position in my life as my grandparents. But I never heard back except through my mother who talked to her mother and relayed the message that they got the fruit and appreciated it. It felt like an awkward dispassionate exchange. A gift purchased by me, given to my grandparents, and acknowledged through an intermediary.

I felt a pang when I saw the thank you first thought was I had judged harshly and that my grandmother had every intention of reaching out and sending her love in that thank you note. Maybe she couldn’t find a stamp, or it took all she could to just write the letter (she was struggling with Macular Degeneration, I knew). Maybe she thought she had sent the she thought she was 103, not 105. All those things could be true.

But let me encourage you all out there who are now grandparents: send the letter.

It’s easy to believe that your small gestures as a grandparent are not important. But they are. You are the elder. You set the bar. You are the model of what it is to love and to pursue. I see so many grandparents who sit back and wait to be loved by their children and grandchildren. Consider being the one who takes the initiative. There is a lot to lose if you simply keep forgetting to do the little things. Please...just send the letter.

(c) 2019 Emily Morgan

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