Friday, August 31, 2007

Caring for Our Grandparents

This may be more of an "old fashioned" memory than a Southern memory. I'm not sure! When I was a little girl, my mom used to sometimes take my great grandmothers to the grocery store. We used to visit them several times during the week and do little things to help them. Neither drove, so we would take them places. One of my great grandmothers used to babysit me from time to time. I have good early memories of knowing my great grandmothers and having a special closeness with aging family members. I felt awe and honor towards my aging relatives. We took care of them, and they in turn helped us. They cooked delicious old fashioned meals for me and told me stories that I never want to forget.

I feel that this is such a contrast to how things are today. It seems that growing old is looked down upon. At one time elderly people were so loved and revered. Maybe part of it is that families used to stay in the same area of the country. We lived one mile away from one great grandmother, and probably ten miles away from the other. Before we moved away from my home state, my hubby and I used to spend a lot of time with my paternal grandmother. When we moved away, she used to write long lonely letters to me because her children who lived nearby did not visit her enough. Some of her letters broke my heart and made me feel sad that I moved so far away.

I know that we are a busy generation of people who are always on the go, but it's so very sad that so many of our elderly people are so lonely and left behind. In my job, I get many elderly customers who call with a question. Many times, they are lonely and want someone to talk to and will not let me end the call. It's so important to listen to the oral histories of the way things used to be. We have so much to learn from aging people who have experienced so many of life's battles.

I've been thinking about this issue especially because I think that many people see growing old as such a negative thing. Youth is revered and people want to cling to it. People don't want to grow old. Many want to have surgery so that they can look young forever. It's interesting that there are so many wonderful health opportunities that can extend a person's life span, but nobody really wants to be old even though we want to live a long time. There's the irony!

These are some special things that I learned from my great grandmothers.

1. How to make the best meatloaf by adding vegetable soup. :)
2. How to be especially sweet to little kids.
3. How to enjoy life at any age.
4. How to show others your love through actions.
5. The importance of family.

And a little poem...
I Can't Be Young Forever
Will you know me when I grow old?

When all my long chocolate strands of hair turn gray
And my smile is toothless?
When my children have grown up and moved away
And the wrinkles on my face and hands have deepened.
My soul will still be my own
Alive within the aging girl.

1 comment:

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Somehow I missed this post till just now. Its beautiful. I agree about how society no longer values elderly people., least in this culture.

Its very sad. There are so many lonely people out there. I enjoy listening to old people go on and on about whatever because you know they just need to talk.

I'm glad you have good memories. Do your kids have a great grandma?