In one of John Denver’s songs he refers to the
state of West Virginia as almost heaven. I think a grandchild would say
the same thing about a visit to see grandma. It’s like going to heaven
for a day.
Grandmothers surely are made in heaven and exhibit an
angel-like quality that’s hard to explain. We grandfathers may think
we’re special, but as the Christmas song goes, “Over the river and
through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.” We know that
grandfathers will be there, but it’s grandma who’s really important.
She’s going to do all the cooking and give out all the love. Hers is the
love that holds many families together.
The phone just rang and it was my grandson Zachary. I
answered and after about 20 seconds of conversation he asked, “Is
Grandma Bee there?” I often wondered why he prefers to have his longer
conversations with Grandma. I’ve come to the conclusion that
grandmothers are much better listeners. They listen with their feelings
while we grandpas listen with our computer brains turned on wanting to
respond with an over-abundance of advice. Lack of patience is another
factor often exhibited by many grandpas. They want instant change.
Grandpas have a difficult time accepting that it takes time to evolve into
an adult and want it to happen at the spoken word. Grandmas enjoy every
minute of the growth process and let the kids just be kids.
Grandmas are special and I just wish I’d had an
opportunity to know one of mine. My maternal grandmother died delivering
my uncle Joe. He was the fifth child of a coal-mining family that lived in
Mason Town, Pa. A neighbor whose child had died nursed Joe and later the
family adopted him before moving to New Jersey. Joe’s adoptive parents
passed away in the flu epidemic of the 1920s and Joe was sent to a boy’s
industrial school in New York. My mother and her two sisters were placed
in Saint Paul’s Orphanage in Pittsburgh. They stayed in the orphanage
until their teen years and then came home to live with my despondent
My mother never knew where Joe was until she received
a letter from him. A friend of his adoptive family had told him about his
family background. Mom went through a long, complicated process getting
him back home, only to have him end up in a Detroit cemetery. He was the
getaway driver in an attempted robbery and was shot to death. Sad to have
lost a grandmother giving birth to another life that failed to take
advantage of her sacrifice. I am writing a book on my family history,
which has numerous tragedies, including my grandfather taking his own
life. My dad immigrated to the U.S. after World War I. My paternal
grandparents lived in Italy and never visited this country. They passed
away when I was very young, so I never got to know any of my grandparents.
Those of us who have never had an opportunity to experience grandma’s
love find it leaves a major void in your life.
When Grandma Was Young
Last month I selected a number of old family pictures
for framing. I arranged them to make up a family-history collage on my
office wall. The selection included pictures of coal-mining activities,
relatives and several pictures of children’s grandparents. The pictures
of my wife’s mother and my mother (pictured) show two beautiful young
women. They are photographed in black and white and like Ansel Adams
works, they focus on the true beauty of the subject. I just never viewed
my mother and mother-in-law as ever being 20-year-old, beautiful young
women. To me they were always mother or grandma and they looked the part.
My kids think of their grandmothers as elderly people
who were just born that way. They never get to appreciate the evolution of
the person that they now see and call grandma. The beauty that was
exhibited in a physical way in early years is now transformed into an
inner beauty that attracts grandkids the same way it attracted suitors of
years gone by.
Parents need to spend more time discussing the family
history and reviewing the scrapbook of past pictures. Family histories are
very important and should not be forgotten. They certainly are as
important as some of the historical trivia we spend hours on in education.
It could provide an excellent opportunity to review the values that made
grandma evolve into the person they think is so great. The beauty in my
mother’s picture isn’t ruined by overexposure of the human body or
excessive jewelry. Something about the old pictures makes me want me to
visit that time in the past.
Send Grandma a
My granddaughter Brooke just came to visit us while
her parents are visiting the doctor. She’s already given me a physical
check-up with her new doctor’s kit. She pronounced me “fit and
fine,” ready to play with her and grandma making play-dough food. She
also painted a special picture for grandma to display on the refrigerator
door. The painted picture reminded me that February is the month of
Valentine’s Day. It’s the time when we send all those we love a
special card. I think it would be nice if this year we painted a special
valentine for the grandmothers of the world, for theirs is a love like no
other, and when they’re gone they’re missed more than words can
there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different
view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending
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