NATIONAL GRANDPARENTS DAY
Today is National Grandparents Day. A day to show appreciation to those special people who would spoil you with cookies, extra television time, or dollar bills. Then they’d send you off to your parents who were left to clean up the mess they gleefully created.
As a child, we visited my maternal grandparents a lot. We’d have a traditional Sunday meal made by my grandmother who never put enough salt on the food. But she made up for that with her baking. My grandfather loved his sweets and my grandmother would hide the desserts she made, so he wouldn’t eat too much. But, to her consternation, he often located and broke into the stash of treats. My sister and I were very close to my grandfather. We’d wake him up early, and, arthritic, he would slowly dress, then brush and smooth his hair with two brushes. Afterward, he’d make us a breakfast of scrambled eggs. We’d walk in his garden, breathing in the wonderful scent of his roses. Later in the day, we’d enjoy the scent of his cigar. Our favorite thing to do with him was to muss up his snow-white hair. From what my mother tells me, it was one of his favorite things too.
My paternal grandparents were a different story. My father immigrated alone to the United States, and we only went overseas a few times to visit that side of the family. My father’s parents were strangers to me. I had no real feeling for them.
My grandparents are long gone, and I envy those who still have theirs around when they are in their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. I wonder what it’s like to relate to one another as adults. Do they still push cookies on you? Do they try to give you a check for fifty dollars? Or perhaps stuff a twenty into your hands?
I would have a lot of questions for all my grandparents. I’d ask my maternal grandparents what it was like when they each arrived at Ellis Island (they hadn’t met then). How did my grandfather feel when the officers took one look at his last name and decided it needed to be changed? How did they even choose that new name? I’d ask him how he felt working for an uncle who was reminiscent of a Dickens villain—keeping most of my grandfather’s wages and not even helping him buy an overcoat to wear in the harsh Chicago winter. How he felt when that old Jewish shopkeeper gave him one, (but too late to keep the damage from being done, causing the arthritis in his later years).
I’d ask my maternal grandmother if she was disappointed when, after impressing some New York high society matrons with her intelligence, one of these ladies offered to adopt her to provide a quality education, and my grandmother’s brother (considered the head of the family as he was the first to come over) refused. How did it feel to be a woman with such intelligence in a time when it wasn’t celebrated? I’d ask my father’s mother how it felt to marry at sixteen and to a man she barely knew. How she felt moving hundreds of miles away from her family. I’d ask her and my grandfather how they dealt with having three sons fighting in World War II.
There are so many questions, none of our family will ever have an answer to. So, on this day, I urge those who still have living grandparents to ask them the important questions that come at the odd moment. Don’t put it off. The answers they give you will provide a rich addition to your family history and make you proud of who and what your family is.