She was dead serious when she said to me, “Just because we both came from the same birth mother doesn’t mean that we have to be close.” She and her sister had not spoken to each other for years. I listened to her and I felt a little sad that two sisters quit trying to have a good relationship, and settled for bitter feelings. If you have a close family, you are among the very blessed on earth. Nothing else even comes close. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, many will have a chance to renew family ties and enjoy being together. Some will dread it like the plague, and will go through the motions, but they can hardly wait until it’s over.
Families are scattered to the four corners today. Our mobility has devalued the role of the grandparents, but many studies indicate that being near family is one of the most highly desired elements of retired persons. In fact, various research indicates that people who retain close family relationships live longer and are more functional. The image of grandparents has changed through the years. One of my grandmothers looked like a little dried-up prune, and died at age 71. Today’s grandmothers are attractive, slender, stylish and drive XYZ’s all over town. Many have high paying jobs as executives and CEOs.
Grandparents are important to children. They—we—have a special role in helping to shape their lifestyle and faith. Faith tends to run in the family. The Apostle Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith; a faith that dwelt in your grandmother Lois and I am sure, dwells in you” (II Timothy 5). The example of one generation can influence several generations. It’s like the relay race I saw the other evening watching the Olympics. One person passes the baton on to the other. The role of grandparents can become the second line of defense against some of the issues facing young people today.
I’ve been a grandfather a long time, and I think I’ve learned a few things. Let me share them with you. First, I need to be careful about giving advice to parents, unless it’s asked for. Even if I disagree with the way a grandchild is being raised, I need to go easy with my “great” wisdom in raising kids. No doubt I made as many errors as anyone else at this point.
I’ve also learned not to tell my children and grandchildren all my aches and pains. A friend said to me recently, “Every time I go to see my Mother, she rehearses all of her arthritis pains and everything else that’s wrong, and I am reaching the point where I dread going to see her.” Our children need to know when we are seriously ill, but let’s spare them otherwise.
I need to remember to send my “grands” and “greats” birthday cards and remember other events, but I need to be careful with gifts. It’s easy to over-indulge grandchildren. Lavish gifts can undermine what parents need to do for them.
Don’t be preachy, but talk about your own faith to your grandchildren. As they grow older and encounter difficult situations, they will draw strength from your experience.
I officiated at a funeral for a woman in Lake Charles, and the thing that made it a beautiful service was what one of her grandchildren wrote about her. She gave me a copy, and I will quote it:
Grandmother, you had a way of healing all of us with skinned knees
And wounded hearts in the rocking chair. When we misbehaved you
Said it was nothing more than missing a nap. Through you, we gained an
Appreciation for morning because we woke up at your house to the smell of
Fresh biscuits, bran muffins and strong coffee. You started the day with
‘Good morning, Sunshine’ and left lipstick on our cheeks.
You made us feel important by taking up with you on your mail route. You
Played games with us and taught us how to play fair and not cheat.
You taught us the importance of doing chores out of love, and not just for money.
You attended our dance and piano recitals and sporting events. You were always
Proud of us, even when we made mistakes. You taught us how to cook and we
Remember your pies and cakes.
You gave us a sense of spirituality, and understanding of responsibility and an
Awareness of good manners. You gave us an appreciation of art, and took 6
Mischievous children and turned us into young ladies and gentlemen.
You taught us to love God, respect our parents, and certainly to make our beds
When we were guests in someone else’s home.
For all these things we are grateful; your values are part of our lives. We love
You very much, signed 6 grandchildren.