In Praise of Grandparents
My grandfather died when I was five, many decades ago. I still remember him as though it were yesterday. I remember him taking me to the vineyards with the horse and cart, to help pick grapes. I remember him by the winter fire, telling me stories of his own boyhood in Hungary. And I remember playing hide-and-seek with him for the last time just before he died. A kind, gentle man with piercing blue eyes, who had loved life.
My grandmother survived him by thirty years. She was a strong woman, with character. I remember her in the spring, picking me violets in the garden − my birth flower. I remember her tears of good-bye when my mother, father and I escaped Hungary. I remember her conviction that she wouldn’t come to live with us here in Canada, because she wanted to stay where my grandfather was buried. I remember the last time I saw her as an adult, the same determined soul I had adored as a little girl.
Grandparents are important to children. What is that undeniable, unique relationship which they share? I think it has something to do with the state of wisdom and innocence connecting in a common world of wonderment. They meet as kindred spirits, each respecting the other, each understanding that s/he will learn from the other. Many of my friends are grandparents.
I found a few recent statistics from the Vanier Institute on Families, through the 2017 General Social Survey, A Snapshot of Grandparents in Canada:
In 2017, 47% of Canadians aged 45 and older were grandparents. The average age of grandparents was 68, while the average age of first-time grandparents was 51 for women and 54 for men. Nearly 8% of grandparents were aged 85 and older and finally, 5% of grandparents in Canada lived in the same household as their grandchildren.
Contrary to common belief, the majority of grandparents have regular contact with their grandchildren. An increasing number of grandparents have taken on a parental role with their grandchildren. Sadly, some of the reasons for this are attributed to an increase in alcohol and drug abuse, incarceration, teen pregnancy, and divorce.
All this means that grandparents have a significant influence on the lives of young people. In addition to bestowing gifts on special occasions, they also serve as child-minders and historians. They pass down family traditions and social values and they act as role models and valued confidants. What is more, they provide emotional and even financial support to their own children; grandparents thus help the entire family, including the grandchildren, to live stress free, comfortable lives which will serve them well in the long run.
My friends have wonderful stories to tell about their grandchildren. They are all in awe of the profound aptitude and exceptional intelligence of these young ones, so it is very clear that the exchange of support is reciprocal. Children give back a sense of satisfaction, achievement, fulfillment, pride and pleasure to their grandparents. The best part of this reciprocity is that the circle of giving will continue, when the children remember their grandparents with affection and admiration – years from now – just as I do.
From “Echoes of Footsteps” with updated statistics