The excitement of grandparenting
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2019 - 12:00am

When I first became a grandmother, I excitedly joined class reunions and compared notes about grandchildren with my high school classmates who also had become lolas. Each of us brought out “brag books” filled with photos of our grandchildren.

Today, the oldest of my nine grandchildren, Cyrus, is 29 years old, a pharmacy and surgical technician working in the Newport Hospital in Los Angeles, California while my youngest is 12-year-old Dominique, a Grade VII student.

Grandparents and grandchildren

There is the observation that grandparents and grandchildren get along more harmoniously than do parents and children. Grandchildren look for comfort and unconditional love when they are young, and we can give it to them because we are not responsible for raising them.

As grandparents, we can see our grandchildren for what they are because we are not guilt-ridden by what we think they ought to be. We can savor their growth because we have the perspective to see how fleeting childhood is. When we were parents, living with it day by day, it seemed to go on forever.

We can befriend their adolescence because of the more relaxed attitude we have acquired toward conventions and outward demand. We may even find them turning to us for some of our old-fashioned thoughts to guide them. We can provide a “haven of peace and rest” for them, and perhaps for our children too, who are caught up in the responsibilities of middle-age life. A marvelous, warm place waits for us grandparents on the “periphery of family life.

J’Aime la Jeunesse (I love youth)

For several decades now, I have delighted in the company of our high school and college students, who have suddenly transformed into the peak of their physical beauty. I have known most of them since they started school in kindergarten. Ugly ducklings now turned to swans!

Like the British governess in Anna and the King of Siam, I cannot help but sing to myself whenever I see these students pairing with each other. “Hello young lovers whoever you are, I hope your troubles are few. All my good wishes go with you tonight, I’ve been in love like you…”

Yet youth has plenty of problems to solve and decisions to make, although they have a pervading aura of peace, however temporary. Youth, above all, is full of life, “the precious uncertain fire of life” burning without thought or self-consciousness; thus, unconscious of its own beauty.

J’aime la Jeunesse! (I love youth). Olga Lambert used to say. Yes, it is true. Youth is a gift that its owners are unaware of, or – if they have thought about it at all – thought of as part of them and not as the temporary loan that it is. “We do not live life, life lives in us.” Childhood lives in us, maturity lives in us, old-age lives in us.” I love youth, particularly when it lives in people who are using it well,” Lambert emphasized. Bernard Shaw once said that youth is wasted on the young. It is true in more sense than he may have intended. Wasted because it is misused; wasted because it is not appreciated as the gift of health, strength, and energy; wasted because the young are unaware of the clear beauty that is theirs for the time being. Perhaps it is only the old, looking on, who can see the beauty. Perhaps, that is one of the gifts of old age.

Easy-to-visit elders

The chances to enjoy the beauty of youth depend greatly upon whether or not the young enjoy being with the old. Some are eager to treasure and be amazed at the old people in their lives. What are the elders like whom they seek out? They are people who seem to feel at home with themselves and with the world around them. They seem to have a life of their own; they are glad to see visitors but seem to have no desperate need of them. They are people who have become complete in themselves in some enviable, hard-to-grasp way.

Mary C. Morrison, author of Let Evening Come: Reflections on Aging, knew an old woman who gained fame among her younger relatives because they would have to read the New York Times the morning before they went to see her if they wanted to keep up their end of the conversation. She would want to know what they thought about all the new and interesting things that were happening in the world. She did a crossword puzzle daily, as an athletic person might go to a fitness center.

These easy-to-visit elders are more interested in the lives of their visitors than in their own. They want to hear what the young are doing and reading and thinking. They would tend to dwell not on problems but on what life offers that is promising and lively. There is a refreshing agility in their thinking. In their opinion, they seem almost to have graduated from morality, and they look at each situation presented to them on its own individual merits – seen on the light of its own integrity and that of the person presenting it. They offer peace and perspective, and a warm welcoming place that the young find restful, and so they come to seek it, as one seeks a lost and legendary treasure.

Our memories a treasure trove

People often deplore the tendency of old to live in the past, and sometimes it is indeed deplorable. But it can be very good since this period requires the harvesting of the past in memory, in thought, and in writing.

Minnie, my high school classmate in St. Scholastica’s College, became a Social Worker and worked in New York where she met her American husband, Jim Martin, also a Social Worker. I stayed with them in their lovely house where they retired in Ventura, beside Sta. Barbara, California. Once a week, they would attend a writing class for senior citizens. After a month, their class would compile a book of 18 memoirs, complete with nostalgic photos of past generations. Her husband’s hidden talent for watercolor portraits was also developed in another class. Each of us has at least one volume of memoirs stored away in our hearts and minds. It is time to look at the whole in perspective and garner wisdom from it. Our memories can be a treasure trove for our children and younger friends. 

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

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