The original purpose behind Grandparent's Day, celebrated in the US on the first Sunday after Labor day, was not just to celebrate grandparents, but rather to educate the youth about the importance of the elderly and the contributions they have made throughout history. It is indeed a great holiday to celebrate. The only problem I have, just like with most holidays, is that we should celebrate those being honored not just one day a year, but every day. This is especially true for our elderly loved ones. Although, to be honest, it has taken me a lifetime to realize it.
Up until this point, my life, like perhaps many of us, was busy with, quite frankly, MY life. Self-absorbed in my work, my interests, my relationships, my happiness. It wasn't until a few years ago when I embarked on a journey to learn more about my family that I began to get a better understanding of my life through the lens of the generations that came before me.
My journey began by collecting and sifting through old family photographs and documents that my parents had saved. I talked with relatives and family friends. I joined on-line genealogy sites and searched digital archives in the hopes of finding additional information. As I researched each of the hundreds of photographs and documents, I found myself not only transported to a different time period but also capturing a glimpse into the lives of my ancestors. But finding the stories behind the photos has been the most difficult and frustrating because the stories can really only be told by the subjects and the person taking the photograph. Persons who have long since passed or whose stories have been lost to time and fading memories.
Recreating these stories has been like a large jigsaw puzzle without a picture on the box and with missing pieces. Sometimes I have been able to put all the known pieces together, and other times not; there were times I could visualize the image on the missing pieces, sometimes they fit and other times they didn’t; and then there were times I have been left with just an empty void. I have lost count how many times I wished I had asked my parents, grandmother, great aunts and uncles, and other relatives about our family while their memories were still alive.
I am slowly making progress, and even though the journey has been, at times, frustrating, it has been a rewarding one. I have learned so much about my family, and in the process, about myself. But, this story is for another time and place. The real purpose of this post is to pass on a lesson that I have learned, albeit, one I would have appreciated to have learned much earlier in life.
The lesson? Treasure the elderly in your life while they are alive. They have so much more to offer than you could ever imagine.
My advice? Don't wait. Find the time to ask your elderly loved ones questions and listen to their life stories, and if they don't want to tell you, be patient and keep trying. Carry on the storytelling and make it part of your regular monthly routine. Although you may feel like you don't have the time, trust me when I say, there will be a point in your life when you and your children will be thankful to have those stories.
So, as you prepare to celebrate Grandparent's Day with your elderly loved ones, make a storytelling tradition part of your plans because the greatest honor you can bestow is to pass on their life stories to the generations to come.
Happy Grandparent's Day!
(to be continued)