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Starting the Dialogue Between Your Aging Parents and Your Children

April 7, 2014

This morning I was thinking about how much I miss my grandchildren. Then my thoughts turned to how much I enjoyed my grandmothers while I was growing up. I left out my grandfathers because one was dead long before I was born and the other died while I was very young. It bothered me that I never got to know my grandfathers, but I truly enjoyed both of my grandmothers.

My maternal grandmother worked well beyond the age of 65 so I didn’t get to see much of her, but when I did it was always enjoyable. Her house seemed huge and the holidays we spent there were always filled with good food, laughter, and lots of competition between the children.  When I was older I realized that the memories of the house were well out of proportion to its actual size, but that didn’t change my experiences there.

Grandma had a player piano in her living room, a large dining room table that was great for playing under, and a mysterious basement full of interesting items. There was a beautiful lilac bush next to the driveway and to this day I can still recall the beautiful sent of lilacs in the spring. My favorite part of visiting her was going to the store to pick out what we would have for supper. If I was spending the week visiting (my aunt was home with me during the day on those occasions) Grandma would stop by the house to pick me up after she got off work. Then we would drive to the store and pick out the meat for supper and head back home to prepare it.  Later in the evening there would be a trip up the road for ice cream.

The ice cream store was run by a family who made their own and hand scooped it from round cartons in the freezer display case. My favorites were mint chocolate chip and peppermint candy. As I grew older I became increasingly fond of jamoca fudge. For holiday dinners Grandma would cook a turkey or ham and a goose because my uncle liked having goose. There was always something fun to do and I looked forward to my infrequent visits with Grandma.

Visits with my paternal grandmother were more frequent. She and my uncle came to our home almost every Sunday afternoon. We all called her Nanny in an effort not to confuse the two grandmothers. I don’t ever recall seeing Nanny in pants as I was growing up. When I became an adult and had children of my own she converted to wearing pants, but on those Sunday visits in my younger years she was always dressed in a skirt and blouse with stockings and dress shoes.

Nanny took me to my first movie-Mary Poppins. She also took me to my second movie-The Sound of Music. Trips to the movie theater were a big deal and a coveted treat. We would go on a Saturday afternoon to the matinee. Afterward we’d go next door to the ice cream parlor and each have an ice cream sundae. There were four of us children in the family so these excursions were usually only once or twice a year. Nanny tried to be sure that we were all treated equally.

Now that I have grandchildren of my own I look back on those years and realize how lucky I was. Both of my grandmothers lived within a 45 minute drive of our home. My own grandchildren are spread out across the country and long periods of time pass in between visits.  I try to remain in touch by sending letters once a month or so, remembering birthdays, sending treats when I can, and acknowledging special occasions. The grandkids respond by sending me pictures they’ve drawn or items they’ve made in craft classes. It’s a start, but it’s not the same as getting to spend frequent time with them.

Regardless of how far away your parents are they will enjoy contact with their grandchildren. Building relationships over long distances can be difficult, but it’s not an insurmountable task. Please enrich your life and the lives of those you love (both older and younger) by encouraging communication and making connections. If you are lucky enough to live close to your parents be sure to arrange time for them to spend with your children. The gift of sharing between the generations has priceless rewards and makes memories for a lifetime.

Do you have something special in your family that builds ties between the generations? I’d love to have you share in the comments section.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope the items discussed here are helpful to you.

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