Like so many other seniors who haven’t seen their kids or grandkids since the pandemic started so long ago, we are living the dream of having visits from our families this summer. Face to face instead of screen to screen. For the first time in SOoooo long! Although in our case our loved ones only live in Ontario, for the past 16 months they may as well have been in Australia or Outer Mongolia. Staying put and staying safe has been paramount.
But now our fully vaccinated offspring are filling up their cars with kids, bikes, camping gear, and all the other essentials necessary for life away from home for a few weeks. And grandparents have been washing sheets and towels, making up beds, and trying to remember what everyone likes to eat – and what they don’t like to eat. Making sure there are plenty of treats.
For when little ones will be around, there’s also remembering that there may be some things you should put away in advance. (I have to admit to having forgotten about that. A bowl of pins and needles by the TV would have been better removed in advance!)
You anticipate these visits for so long and then of they’ve come and gone in a flash, right?! The challenge of course is to create lasting memories with (and for) grandchildren you don’t get to see all that often.
As we (that’s the royal we) strip beds, rewash sheets and towels, and remake beds before the arrival of the next cherished family, I find myself thinking about the trips we made to my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. For the very first time in 15 years of being a grandmother myself, I’m thinking about how my grandparents viewed our visits. Or at least I try to imagine what my grandparents’ perspective might have been, because of course kids really can only see things from their own perspective. That’s just how it works.
Those visits cemented lasting memories for me, and they are very good ones. For me. But I happen to know, because they talked about it a fair bit in advance of each trip, that my parents’ memories were not nearly as fond. In fact, it’s fair to say that they dreaded each visit. My Mom was an only child and her parents were our only living grandparents, so at least once a year – and sometimes twice – my parents put three squabbling kids in the backseat of the car – in those days before minivans, seatbelts, and entertainment devices – and drove 8 hours on old Route 9 from Long Island to Glens Falls. Their conversation in the car centered mostly on how they would get through the visit. What Grandpa might say or do that would upset Dad and how he wasn’t supposed to say anything. How overdone the dinner would be because Grandma would start cooking it hours too early. And on it went. Looking back, I realize that these trips also cut into my Dad’s 2 weeks’ annual holidays, which wouldn’t have helped soften the mood.
I can still remember where I slept. On a roll-away cot in the corner of their dining room. I loved feeling all snuggly and by myself in that room. I can still bring it to mind 60-70 years later; I can still remember the sound of the fridge motor in the kitchen through the passageway, somehow comforting in the dark in my special cozy place at my grandparents’ house.
Now I’m wondering where my brothers and parents slept. And how my grandparents got the roll-away cot up from the basement. And, mostly, how they felt about the impending visit. Were they counting the days until we arrived, like I’ve been doing recently? Were they dreading my parents’ silent disapproval, or did they even know about it? Of course, they had to get all the bedding and beds ready, and plan food for 5 extra people, who I now realize eat far more than most seniors. My parents never seemed to mention any of these things. And neither of my parents ever lived long enough to see it from a grandparent’s perspective. Or from the perspective of a senior. Perhaps they would have modified their views!
I’m pretty sure my grandparents were delighted to see their grandchildren regardless of whatever friction may have existed between them and their daughter and son-in-law. My memories of my Grandma include playing lots of dominos and tiddly winks, and then Scrabble when I was a little older, swinging on her front porch swing with her, learning to sew and threading her needle for her when she could no longer see close up. Just having her being part of my life. My memories are all positive. All warm. Those are the kinds of memories – the kind of feelings – that I hope our grandchildren will hold decades from now. That’s what we’re building with each visit.
Speaking of which, it’s time to put some extra towels in the washing machine!
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