Friday, September 11, 2009

Handbook for Grandparents

Handbooks for parenting, grandparenting and raising livestock (just tossed that one in to see if you are paying attention) have been around forever. Yes, some information is helpful, but nothing tells the entire story until that baby is placed in your arms. This is so true for grandparents.

When we divided up my parents' household items, I ended up with a 'handbook' that was used by my grandparents' generation. It was first written in 1906. Here is a paragraph on how to honor a grandmother on her birthday: (Note. This is in no way my opinion so don't shoot the writer.)
Honor the dear old mother and make your love plain to her. Doubtless she is the object of much tender love and holy reverence. (Ha! Sorry.) Have you manifested your affection as plainly as you should? You feel a worthy pride in her long and useful career. (Useful!!!! Makes the hair on my back stand up. Oh, I don't have hair on my back.) But to her own retrospect, life's history is largely a record of failure (Yes, this was written by a man.); of efforts defeated and anticipations unfulfilled. (Might as well put her on an iceberg and send her off to sea.) She needs encouragement. Let her hear the praise that you feel she deserves. It will not make her vain,(Certainly not since she is so depressed from remembering her lousy life.) but may give her needed comfort.

Ah, that should get your blood boiling. I like the 'honor' thing but let's face it. Honor is deserved, not just a given. I'm not sure when I read this if I should get a shawl or a mini skirt. I'm thinking the mini skirt. Once a rebel always a rebel. Yet, this is a part of my history. This idea of the grandmother sitting in her rocker contemplating her life (and, obviously her failures), watching her family pick up the baton and move on certainly created many a lonely woman and many children losing out on the richness that grandmother could have given to their lives.

We are a generation of grandparents who can make a difference, who have much to offer and much to discover about ourselves. I know that all cultures are different, but are we so different in what we want for our families?

I'm sorry if this is lengthy but I'll try not to get too carried away at this time. We are writing the new 'handbook' for grandparents. We ARE the new handbook. Yes, it takes a bit more energy and tolerance. It takes setting aside what we know about ourselves allowing us to try new things and to listen in a way we never have before. We are a strength for our families. Snow capped Mt. Hood reigns over the landscape of Portland. It is silent yet inspiring and challenging. A small bloom of the ginger plant hides beneath leaves where no one can see it, yet we can lift the leaves and see what beauty it possesses. We must look inside of ourselves to find the strength and creativity we can offer our families.

Let's write a new handbook. Only from the past, from the present, can it be complete. And, maybe in the end, complete us as well.

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