Sunday, July 8, 2007


A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world.
~Charles and Ann Morse

In most ways, I consider my childhood to have been superior to that of my son. I grew up in a better time and place, with more affluent surroundings, and for most of my childhood, I had a larger immediate family. But there is one factor of his childhood that was largely missing from my own.


Yes, I had both a living great-grandmother and grandmother (mother and daughter) when I was born, but they always lived several states away, so they were more a concept than a reality when I was growing up. I met the great grandmother, born in 1879, once or twice when I was very young. She died when I was seven, so I have only the vaguest, most fleeting memory of her.

Her daughter, my father's mother, lived until I was nearly 30. Up until my mother died when I was thirteen, I knew her no better than my great grandmother. I met her a couple of times during family vacations, but she was not a part of my everyday life.

Both my grandfathers died before they were as old as I am now, so I have no concept whatsoever of having a grandparent of my own gender.

All my childhood friends had grandparents who lived nearby that they saw often who, more likely than not, were a source of gifts, cookies, patience, and understanding. I have to admit I'd be more than a little jealous about the attention my friends received from their grandparents, especially at Christmastime.

As a preteen, I got to know my mother's young aunt, only ten years her senior. She was everything my friends' grandmothers were to them, so she quickly became a grandmother figure to me. But though I got to see her more often than my real grandmother, she did live sufficiently far away that she was not quite an everyday part of my life, either.

After my mother died, my grandmother came to live with us for a year, so I got to know her then, though I'd preferred to have done it when I wasn't grieving for my mother. But I am grateful for that year, because my grandmother became a reality for me, rather than a concept.

My son had a grandfather and later, a stepgrandmother, living near him from the day he was born until nearly fifteen years later when my father died. They were an integral part of his everyday life for those years; he spent as much or more time at their house as he did at mine. Much of who he is today is because of their influence.

I think one of the greatest gifts I gave my son was that of grandparents.

However, I have no desire to become a grandfather myself. Just as I preferred being a child to being a parent, I prefer being a grandchild to being a grandparent. I just don't think I have it in me to be one of those ideal patient, generous grandpas. I know it is bound to happen sooner or later, but my son seems in no hurry to reproduce.


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