By: Elaine Marze
Words and phrases can mean different things at different seasons of our lives. When young parents say, “The kids are coming,” it may be a warning. It doesn’t mean the same as when senior citizens tell their friends, “The kids are coming”, which means they won’t be lonely for a day or days. It means they’ve not been forgotten or left out and that they matter to the humans they devoted a large part of their lives to.
Especially at this time of year some of the most precious words in grandparent vocabulary are, “The kids are coming.” Wrinkled people brag to their friends that their kids and grandkids are coming home for the holidays. That’s a beautiful thing unless you are one of those unfortunates whose children do not come home and who do not invite the “old folks” to their homes.
Notice the big smiles of those who proudly announce their kids are coming as they describe the cleaning, baking and preparing for their adult offspring who are coming home for the holidays. The joy that these words bring to those fortunate ones who successfully instilled a love of family and tradition in their descendants is clear to others, some of whom will spend the holidays alone.
The bonds of family are instilled at a young age, and it doesn’t matter whether grandma’s home is big and fancy or small and plain if kids are taught the right way of love. My grandparent’s house had an outdoor toilet infested with ferocious granddaddy spiders so sometimes us kids would just “go” behind the barn or smokehouse except at night when grandma would put a syrup bucket in a closet for us ‘littleuns’. In addition to grandma and grandpa there were aunts, uncles, and cousins to play, visit and feast with. Great memories.
One widowed grandmother had to downsize after her husband’s death, and now her spoiled progenies said her apartment was too small to come for a visit yet they travel all over the country in an RV. I remember my cousins and me sleeping four to a double bed, making pallets on the floor and even sleeping on the front porch on quilts, no blow-up mattresses. Attitude is what makes an event fun or not.
To this day I’m grateful that my mother, widowed with three young kids, would make the two hour drive to my grandparents on lonely country roads accompanied only by rowdy kids so we could all be with family. My husband had a similar relationship with his extended family, and we made sure our kids had the same bonding opportunities with their relatives. Sadly, the tradition of strengthening familial relationships is not practiced as widely as it used to be, and dysfunctional families abound.
Children grow up and leave their parents, marry and have their own kiddos. Then the old folks are at the mercy of the time allotment, if any, allowed by the next generation of parents. Among the senior community ones who have kin come see them are envied by those who rarely, if ever, get a long-awaited call saying, “We’re coming for a visit,”… the most precious words a grandparent can hear.
The bond of family love doesn’t happen by accident. Emotional connections are solidified by shared experiences, time and love. The older generation won’t be available for ever. Everybody is busy, but the time is now for multiple generations to love, laugh and share the joy of being together.