Ap­pre­ci­at­ing grand­par­ents

The Covington News - - Sunday Living -

I’m al­ways sur­prised by the num­ber of peo­ple who haven’t heard of Na­tional Grand­par­ents Day. If you’ve never given it much thought, or re­cently walked through the greet­ing card aisle at your lo­cal re­tailer, I sup­pose it would be easy to for­get that to­day is the 30th an­niver­sary of the hol­i­day.

Oth­ers are like me, with par­ents and grand­par­ents who are well aware of the date and get their feel­ings hurt if their kids and grand­chil­dren for­get it. To­day gets so lit­tle me­dia at­ten­tion that it’s easy to over­look it. And the truth is, as a na­tion, we aren’t the best at tak­ing the time to be­stow re­spect and honor on our se­nior cit­i­zens.

Peo­ple of­ten dis­miss Grand­par­ents Day by say­ing, “Oh, that’s just an­other hol­i­day the greet­ing card com­pa­nies cre­ated to make money.” But the his­tory of the day isn’t rooted in com­mer­cial­ism. It is an­other great Amer­i­can story of one per­son’s ef­forts to bring recog­ni­tion to an of­ten-over­looked seg­ment of our pop­u­la­tion.

In 1970, West Vir­ginia house­wife and se­nior-ci­ti­zen ad­vo­cate Mar­ian McQuade ini­ti­ated a cam­paign to set aside a spe­cial day just for grand­par­ents. State of­fi­cials, friends, and se­nior or­ga­ni­za­tions helped spread the word of her cam­paign around the state. In 1973 the first Grand­par­ents Day was pro­claimed in West Vir­ginia.

McQuade, a mother of 15, grand­mother of 40, and great-grand­mother of eight, fur­thered her mis­sion by con­tact­ing gov­er­nors, se­na­tors and con­gress­men around the na­tion. She and her team turned to the me­dia for cov­er­age, and sent let­ters to churches, busi­nesses and na­tional se­nior or­ga­ni­za­tions. Fi­nally, in 1978, the U.S. Congress passed leg­is­la­tion pro­claim­ing the first Sun­day af­ter La­bor Day as Na­tional Grand­par­ents Day. Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter signed the procla­ma­tion.

I think it’s won­der­ful that we set aside a day to honor th­ese pre­cious in­di­vid­u­als. Re­search sug­gests that chil­dren re­ceive great ben­e­fits from their grand­par­ents. They’re of­ten play­mates, men­tors and role mod­els. Grand­par­ents are the car­ri­ers of eth­nic his­tory and fam­ily tra­di­tions. They usu­ally have more free time to just re­lax with their grand­kids, and sim­ply en­joy the chil­dren for who they are at the mo­ment.

I’ve of­ten com­plained to my grand­mother about some­thing my kids have done, only for her to gen­tly re­mind me how fast child­hood passes. She al­ways tells me to en­joy th­ese days, be­cause in the blink of an eye, they’ll be grown up and gone. Of course she’s right. She must look at me some­times and won­der how her lit­tle grand­baby could pos­si­bly be 40 years old now.

Some of my warmest, co­zi­est mem­o­ries in­clude my grand­par­ents, and I cher­ish ev­ery mem­ory now that three of them have passed away. You won’t find their names in his­tory books. They lived quiet lives with old-fash­ioned val­ues and a deep love of fam­ily. And that is the beauty of be­ing a grand­par­ent - you don’t have to be ex­trav­a­gant to earn the love and ad­mi­ra­tion of lit­tle chil­dren. You just have to be avail­able.

I miss the laughs and war sto­ries my grand­fa­ther, Toto, used to share. I miss my Grandpa Allen, how he smelled of sweet pipe to­bacco and al­ways gave me a quar­ter when he came to visit. My Granny Allen was the most amus­ing com­bi­na­tion of South­ern charm and gruff­ness. They were al­ways there in the back­ground of my life, a com­fort­ing gift of wis­dom and fun.

I’m grate­ful that we live near my one liv­ing grand­mother, the one we’ve al­ways called Honey. There is still a sense of co­zi­ness and warmth that greets me when I walk through the door. Her home rep­re­sents a sanc­tu­ary of un­con­di­tional love and ac­cep­tance. It al­ways has been the safe oa­sis I needed through­out my life, the one place I knew that no mat­ter what I’d done, she’d be happy to see me. It’s the one place I can be as­sured that, no mat­ter what crazy thing comes out of my mouth, there’s some­one pa­tient enough to truly sit and lis­ten to what I have to say.

There is some­thing mag­i­cal that hap­pens be­tween grand­par­ents and their grand­kids. As au­thor Alex Ha­ley de­scribes it, “Grand­par­ents can do more for us than any­one else in the world; they sprin­kle star­dust in our eyes.”

For that, and a thou­sand rea­sons more, let’s honor our grand­par­ents - not just to­day, but al­ways.

Kari Apted may be reached at kari@ kari­apted.com.

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