International Grandparents’ Day

It does not surprise me that there is such  a day. However I was not aware of it until I received a Facebook post on October 28th informing me that the great day was occurring on October 29th.  The source of this information was a toy shop site announcing that in honour of the day, I could shop and receive 15% discount on my purchases.

My bud of calm blossomed into hysteria! Why not commercialise everything! Why not turn one of the most honourable, treasured, unique relationships in the whole of humanity – the one between a Grandparent and his or her children’s children – into something to be exploited by the money grabbers. As if Valentines Day, Easter, St Patrick’s Day,Mothers’ Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and Christmas are not enough! I was and I remain furious!

Of course there were lovely responses from others hailing this initiative. Your chance to show them how much your love them, a great thing for first time grandparents in time for Chrissy – how lovely. Not me!

I became a grandmother at the age of 46. She is now 19. I have 6 grandchildren and am awaiting the birth of the 7th. I am now 66, retired, a bit listless and trying to fill the spaces in my life after 40 years of teaching. My husband and I have developed a sort of early onset retired routine and my life is comfortable and safe. Health issues have presented themselves as they do when one is settling into the twilight years and bilateral knee replacement has been a source of pain and challenge. That continues! But one of the few things that has NOT changed is my relationship with my grandchildren. It remains one of the greatest sources of wonder, joy and love.

I never say “I am going to be a grandmother again” when announcing news of the impending arrival of another member of my family, two generations removed from my own! Instead I announce “I am going to be another grandmother!” Like each one of my children, my relationship with my grandchildren is different and the opportunity to get to know them, to watch them grow, to learn their quirks, likes and dislikes, their talents, their hopes and fear and to see them “learn”me is pure wonder! Of course my children work very hard to maintain the relationship too.  That is gift to me. I do not see that as their responsibility. From the time my children entered into life long relationships with others I have conveyed the following philosophy to them – none of them asked to be born. Their father and I were responsible for their births. We have a life long responsibility to love them and the fact that they invite us to be part of their relationships and their families is gift.

One of my favourite sources of inspiration is the book The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. In it is writes about children:

“Your children are not your children

they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself”

It is a wonderful piece of writing.

My grandchildren range in age from 19 to 5. I have one grandson who came into our family when his father married my daughter. There are three other grandsons and one other grand daughter and one more, soon to be born.

I was present at the birth of my first grand child. At the time I had a friend who had recently had the same experience. She spoke so passionately about how bonded she felt to her grand daughter as soon as she was born. Of course I expected to have the same experience. Present in the birthing room with me was my Mother aged 80 at the time. It was the first time I had heard my daughter swear at her beloved GrandPat!

Mum was a bit of a Catholic in the same way as the Queen is a bit of a Royal! She had been giving a running commentary by way of groans and moans and “oh dear”s throughout the process. Having reached her limit, my daughter sat up in the bed, eyeballed her and roared “GrandPat! If you don’t   bloody well shut up, you are going to have to go outside! Stop it!” My Mother who would have normally made a comment about the inappropriate use of offensive language, just shriveled back into her chair, got out her rosary beads and silently prayed her life long mantra!

I watched my daughter in awe. She surrendered herself completely to what her body was intent on doing. No pain relief. No sound. She was amazing and when my grand daughter was launched into the world by that final incredible push I was overcome with love and admiration for my daughter. My focus was her – not my new grand daughter. And then it struck me! The woman in the corner with the rosary beads did this six times and endured a miscarriage as well. I had done the same thing eight times, four live births and four births ( all daughters) the result of deaths in utero. How magnificent!

My mother lived to meet five of her great grandchildren. She died three months before the birth of her sixth great grand child. My Dad lived to meet his first one only. My Dad had dementia and at the end of his life he did not know who he was or any of his family. My daughter and I took the then beautiful bonny baby, a vision in pink and frills, to see him not long before he died. She was about 4 months old. Dad had been a newspaper editor and every day in the nursing home he would receive a copy of the local paper. He would read out the headlines and then drive the staff mad by spelling them out loudly, editor style, to check their accuracy.

Patricia placed Gabrielle on his lap and he said “And who is this?” I replied “this is your great grand daughter Gabrielle, Dad.” His response? “Gabrielle…. G-A-B-R-I-E- double L -E… is that right?” Flabbergasted I told him he was correct. He repeated his enquiry three more times and each time we said “yes”. And then came “Gabrielle… B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L”. Relationship established forever. A story repeated across the years of her growth which she hopefully will tell to her grandchildren. You can’t buy THAT at Toys R Us with a 15% discount!

And what of her? Intelligent, strong willed, fights with her mother like her mother fought with me and I fought with mine, the difference being her generous use of expletives. Environmental warrior, brilliant photographer, trusted and valued friend to her peers, reliable, responsible, trustworthy. I love her and she loves me.

I knew each of my Grandmothers. My maternal Grandfather died when I was 3 and my paternal Grandfather died before I was born. My maternal Grandmother came to live with us on my 9th birthday. I loved her. She was an impressive build of a woman and what she said went! When  first came to live with us she had long pure white hair which she wore in a bun held in place by a hair net as fine as the most intricate cobweb! I spent hours brushing her hair while she sat on her bed and I knelt behind her. Sometimes when I was practising the piano she would sit in her chair in the lounge room, rosary beads in hand – she was a bit of a Catholic like the Queen Mother was bit of a Royal.

In 1971, when I was 19 and had to watch my Mother tell her that I was 7 months pregnant, her response was “Pat, Louise is a good woman”. It was the first time in my life that I have been referred to as a woman. It was as if I had received a certificate in maturity!

My Dad’s Mum was a tiny little woman. I called her Nana. Her name was Euphemia, a fact I did not become aware of until my Mother’s meeting with the undertaker in preparation for Dad’s funeral. But that’s another story. She was a wonderful knitter. Dad would take us to see her each weekend. Her home was like a treasure cave to me. She had beautiful glassware and nicknacs. She made delicious shortbread. She had a holly tree in the back yard which we raided every Christmas and unlike my Grandma she was very, very funny, never stern – this impression would have been coloured by the fact that I only saw her once a week while I had Grandma 24/7!

I do not remember ever receiving a “store bought” gift from either of my Grandmothers. However, two of their possessions have found their way to me, my Grandma’s wedding ring and Nana’s gold bracelet. But gifts received? Well let me think – love, joy, wonder, hope, time, security, support, story, music, family, connection, self knowledge, self belief, common sense, resilience, wisdom to name a few. These are the gifts I hope I am giving to Gabrielle,Joshua, Oscar, Eliza, Darcy , Jacob and as yet unknown third Grand Daughter and I  can’t buy them at a 15% discount at Toys R Us!

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Hi there, Lovely Louise. Always wait to have the time & space to read your thoughts and stories. Hope all is well with you & the family. I have a sense of connectedness with you & some of the Family – so
    keep them coming……..

    Like

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