While exiting my car, I noticed a young teenager, phone in hand, sitting in the front seat of a truck. Her glance revealed an unhappy face as she returned to her phone. Once inside to pick up our corgi from a grooming session, I heard about the unhappy face.
Grandmother described the first week of her granddaughter’s highly anticipated month-long visit now that school was out. They’d had fun their first week, but their first blow-up ended in tears and that unhappy face.
When I was a child, I always looked forward to summer and time with my grandparents. I was fortunate enough to know all four. They all impacted my life but in measurably different ways.
Grannie Smith raised nine children who provided 20 grandchildren and a few additions that joined our cousin clan mid-childhood. Grannie Cassie had two children and only five grandchildren.
I was the second grandchild of the Smith cousin clan, and I believed I was her favorite. It was not until Granny Smith’s funeral, when I listened to a younger cousin describe her impact on his life, that I realized that I was not her favorite. Granny Smith had grandchildren around virtually all the time, yet made each of us feel special.
We always lived long distances from Granny Smith and often went years without visiting. When we visited, I loved to sit at the table and listen to stories of years past. Family lessons abounded everywhere. I learned how to love every child, that everyone must do their part and how to wait in a long line for one bathroom.
I watched my grandmother go to work as a maid cleaning motel rooms and heard funny stories about the mess people leave behind. Most importantly, I learned that all work is respectable and puts food on the table. I also learned to hang up the hotel towels.
On the other hand, Granny Cassie was quick with a switch off the apple tree. We spent many years living in the same town, even living with my grandparents for a year while I was in the first grade. I learned to be brave about riding the big yellow bus, how to collect eggs from the chicken coop, cook for an army because all were welcome at the supper table, and sweep the kitchen floor every day.
I suspect Granny Smith gave up sweeping the kitchen floor daily while parenting nine children.
In all my grandparent-recollections, I do not remember hearing about giving to help others. There was just the doing. Granny Cassie and Grandpa Rex were members of the local Fraternity of Oddfellows and the Rebekah Assembly. Various activities raised money for educational scholarships and the old folk’s home in Corsicana.
The action message was about helping and taking care of others. They didn’t spend time talking about it with our cousin clan. They just modeled it.
We live in unprecedented times with more generations alive together than ever before. Today, you can hold your great-grandchildren and impact their lives just as their grandparents and parents will.
Traditionalists (born 1925 to 1945) are passing on inheritances far beyond dollars to their Baby Boomer (1946-1964) children and the adult Generation X (born 1965 to 1980). Generation Y, often known as Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and even Gen Z (1997-2012), watch and learn from all the grands, regardless of age.
You have witnessed milestones of history. Your battlefields, factory floors, communities, and neighborhoods have given us successes and failures from which we all learn.
We live in the world’s most generous country by many standards because of the life experiences you modeled for us.
As the grandmother was leaving, I overheard her say she hoped the rest of the month went well but was already looking forward to June 30. I hope they find more hugs than tears, shared experiences, and great stories.
As you think about giving well, take stock of your role as a grandparent because your actions and stories matter. You might even want some help writing your legacy story to pass down to your grandchildren. If so, check out my latest book, The Gift of Giving. It is available as a digital download or printed guidebook.
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