Why do we celebrate Grandparents Day? Grandparents are cool. I vote we celebrate all month long! Originally established by presidential decree in 1978, it is intended as a day to honor grandparents for the contributions they make in our lives. It set me thinking about the contributions of my grandparents.
I was fortunate enough to know all my grandparents. Their impact in my life can be measured differently. 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’s clan, and I believed that I was her favorite. It was not until I was at Granny Smith’s funeral and listened to one of the younger cousins describe my grandmother and the impact she had on his life that I came to the stunning realization that I was not her favorite. Granny Smith had grandchildren around virtually all the time and managed to make each feel special.
We always lived long distances from Granny Smith and sometimes went years without visiting. I was always making up for lost time with her and given a chance loved to sit at the table and listen to stories of years past. 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, puts food on the table, and for Granny’s sake, hang up the hotel towels. She had a bad back.
Granny Cassie, on the other hand, 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 to sweep the kitchen floor every day.
I suspect Granny Smith gave up sweeping the kitchen floor every day while parenting nine children.
In all my grandparent recollections, I do not ever 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 especially for the old folk’s home in a neighboring town.
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.
Grandparents Day was not a national holiday, but rather a day of observance. It was a time to reflect on what we’ve learned from them and if they are still living to let them know it.
We live in unprecedented times with more generations alive at the same time than ever before. Today, you may have the chance to hold your great-grandchildren and to impact their lives just as their grandparents and parents will.
Traditionalists are passing on inheritances far beyond dollars to their Baby Boomer children and the adult Generation X. Generation Y, often known as Millennials and even Generation Z, now called the i-Generation, are watching and learning from all the grands, regardless of age.
They 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 most altruistic and philanthropic country in the world by many standards because of the life experiences you modeled for us.
Johnny Prill wrote the Grandma and Grandpa song. “Oh Grandma, Grandpa, you know that I love you. I love all those little things that you say and do, the stories you tell, things I never knew. Oh, Grandma, Grandpa I love you.”
Grandparent stories matter. What’s your grandparent story?