A Grandmother's Responsibility

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By Susan "Honey" Good

Our family stuck together like glue growing up in Hawaii. My daughters were raised in an atmosphere where life was totally centered around the family. I am proud to say they have continued this tradition in their families and I applaud them. They stick together, like glue. My Grands love to be with their siblings and their parents. It is heart warming and they wish, and I wish, I could be in the middle of their ‘glue’.

Why do I say this? Because my daughters have never asked me for anything except…me! My lack of time with them is the only time they get angry with me. Never mind that they moved away! In their minds, that does not count.

How do I feel about my situation? I feel very sad. I feel disconnected because I am not on the scene to share their daily lives. I feel a loss. I feel guilt ridden that I don’t spend more time with them.

I wish my entire huge family could live together in a huge compound - I have told them this - so I could see them a minute here and a minute there. I envision my children and Grands running in and out of our home, remembering how our life was in Honolulu. I see our mother-daughter relationship flourishing as we laugh together, share thoughts together, cook together, argue together and then kiss and make up together. I know this is not reality. But I can wish…

Last night, Shelly and I had dinner with friends from LA. We live in Palm Springs in the winter months and we have many friends from across America. My girlfriend and I started chatting with one another and the guys did the same. My girlfriend has Parkinson’s disease. I asked her if she had told her young granddaughters about her medical condition and asked her if she spends a lot of time with them because her entire family lives in LA.

She answered, “No. They haven’t noticed my situation so I have not said anything. Unfortunately, I don’t see them that often. They are in dance class, art class, and other classes. There is very little time for us to have alone time.”

Her answer did not surprise me. Though I don’t live close to any of my Grands, I know they are also engaged in their studies and after school activities.

Now for the corker! My girlfriend went on talking in such a composed and unguarded manner, stating, “I look at my busy life. I don’t have time to spend with my grandchildren!”

Am I hitting a nerve with any of you, darlings?

Her bluntness startled me because I know hundreds of Grandmothers and not once has this been a topic of conversation! I believe it is on their minds, but not their lips. I know it is on my mind.

My emotions ran the gambit with her statement. I felt relief that I was not the only Grandmother leading a busy life. I felt total remorse and sadness as I thought of the time lost with my family. I presume many of you may feel as I do, darlings.

Her statement provided me with a picture of the Grandmother of today. We are modern age Grandmothers! We are not retiring women. We are vital, hip, involved, worldly and savvy and enjoy our lives to the hilt.

The Grandmother of yesteryear led a different lifestyle. She, fortunately, lived in close proximity to her family. Grandmothers looked and acted their ages and were called Grandma or Grandmother.

Did you know that 41% of Grandmothers no longer want to be called Grandma or Grandmother? Many Grandmothers want to choose their own name. Why? Because 41% of Grandmothers don’t want to be thought of as old.

This brings me back to my personal predicament. My children would like to see more of me but with my hectic schedule it is difficult to find the time to travel to each of them as often as they would like. Never mind that my children moved away from me. Never mind that my Grands are so involved in activities that my daughters do not have the time to visit their mother unless it fits their schedule!

The responsibility rests on our shoulders, darlings! That is it, pure and simple.

On January 7, my daughter’s birthday, I phoned her early in the morning (I wanted to be her first call) to wish her a happy birthday. The conversation between us became melancholy, probably because another birthday has passed. It went like this...

Jenny said, “Mom, you have the time and the money to travel and visit us more often. We want you. The kids and I miss you so much and you have missed so many precious moments watching my kids grow up. There are two of you and five of us! We have tight schedules with all the kid’s activities. Just promise you will come to Arizona once a month, please.”

And then she started to cry. And it was her birthday! And I truly was beside myself with grief and I was heart broken. And I started to cry.

It was a healthy interaction. We made a plan. We will see one another once a month. Obviously I will travel to her more often than she to me. She will be in Palm Springs next weekend and fly into Chicago with Bruce and the Grands for a family occasion in May. The rest of the months, at this time, Shelly and I will fly to Arizona.

I am glad my girlfriend said what she said at dinner last night. It is not that she opened my eyes, it is that she jerked me into my own reality; bringing my thoughts front and center. She enabled me to want to make a change. Her statement led me to broach the topic with you. So you can give some thought to your own situations with your families.

The truth of the matter is, even my girlfriend has time. She just has to make the time. I have the time. I just have to make the time.  Yes, we are busy bees! We should be. It is healthy. But, family first!

The bottom line is this: we all should make the time and put family front and center. Nothing is more important than our families. Period. And yes, I, as the Grandmother whom my family calls "Honey," may have to do more and give more to make this happen. The way I see it, that is a Grandmother's responsibility. 

Do something GOOD today: book a flight or get in your car and visit your family.

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

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