Today in My History
2000:Here Comes Mr. Misery
2001: Affair to Remember
2002: Hang It Up, James Bond
2003: These Boots Were Made for Walkin'
2004: Thrown a Curve
2005: Welcome, K-Mart Shoppers
2006: Now THAT's Sick
2007: Guest Author
2008: Doos and Don'ts
2009: More Stuff and More Nonsense
All Shook Up
Books Read in 2010
"The Granny Diaries"
Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(updated 3/17/10) And Then I Ate
Easter--The Big Event from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.
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23 April 2010
I've bought a couple of books recently on grandparenting. One is a book chock full of ideas for how to be in your grandchild's life when you live at a distance. I've started working on that already.
The other was a book I finished reading in a day. It's newspaper columnist Adar Lara's "The Granny Diaries." I found that more fun reading, but less helpful because Lara's grandchild is her daughter's child and the book really comes from the place of a sometimes uneasy relationship between mother and daughter, and how the mother can support her daughter's decisions, even when she wants to open her mouth and say "why don't you..." or "in my day we..." or other such comments which might be taken as a criticism of her parenting.
She actually gives 2-1/2 pages to the grandmothers whose SONS are the parent and it was more acknowledging that some of us are grandparents to our son's children and that's about it.
But reading these books has made me think about my relationship with my own grandparents (I am fortunate that I knew all four of them) and how I felt about my mother's parents (her mother especially), given that I was lucky if I saw her three times a year, makes me realize how grandparenting can be done even at a distance.
As I have written before, we saw my father's parents all the time. They lived just a mile or so from us, in San Francisco, and they did not have a car, so they relied on us for transportation everywhere. Every Sunday morning we picked them up and took them to church. My mother and my grandmother spoke on the phone veryfrequently. (This was not my mother's choice and my grandmother carried on such lengthy one-sided conversations that it was not uncommon to watch my mother holding her head in her hands, the telephone receiver down at her side while my grandmother chatted on and on and on, unaware that nobody was listening to her.)
She was a small woman but very definitely the matriarch. Her rule was law. All the time. She was always impeccably dressed, and would not be seen in downtown San Francisco without high heels, a nice 2-piece suit, a hat, and gloves. She liked being waited on and her habit was to sit herself down somewhere and then start issuing orders, always prefacing them by "Hon, like a good girl would you...." get her a drink, get her purse for her, open a window, etc., etc., etc.
She was angry all of her life that she was not rich, and her circle of friends were all people of some degree of wealth. As they all got older and her friends began to die off, she was always disappointed that nobody left her a lot of money. She had been a chorus girl in vaudeville and occasionally could get frolicksome, but mostly I saw her as a woman with a great deal of unhapiness with a sour disposition that affected everyone around her.
She loved me. She showered me with stuff and smothered me. It was nice for her that I liked frilly, girly things, because she did too, and when Karen came along, and was a tomboy, she really didn't care much about her. Oh she treated her nicely, but it was always clear who was her favorite--and it was one thing I was jealous about my sister--Nannie didn't like her as much as she did me.
In contrast, my father's father, in my memory, was very quiet and aloof (he never got a chance to get a word in edgewise, and my grandmother spent most of her life criticizing him to his face). He also was always impeccably dressed. Always wore a white shirt and a tie, even when working at the downtown garage, parking cars, where he worked until he retired. He never seemed to quite know what to do with grandchildren and was very stiff and proper with us. Whenever he saw us, the only thing he could think of to say was "tell me all about yourself."
Where my father's parents were the quintessential city folk, my mother's parents were definitely all country. By the time I was born, they had moved out into the country in Inverness and lived on an acre of land, where my grandfather could raise chickens and corn and other crops and my grandmother could tend her strawberry patch. They had raised ten children and had 32 grandchildren, two of them (Peach and her sister) living in a house on the property.
So there wasn't a lot of money to go into gifts for grandchildren and I almost never saw them but I will never forget being swept into Grandma's arms and when she whispered "precious child" in my ear, I knew that I was her very special grandchild. Each of her other grandchildren knew that too--she just had this knack of making you feel loved and special when you were with her. I can't remember a thing that my paternal grandmother gave me (I know she gave me a lot) but I treasure the one gift I got from my other grandmother--she belonged to the Book of the Month club and near Christmastime, we got to look through the books she had finished reading and choose one for ourselves. I still remember that I chose a book called "The Tontine." by Thomas Costain. I don't remember if I ever read the book, but just having a gift from Grandma was wonderful.
My mother's father was also a quiet man, and apparently had been all of her childhood as well. He lost his hair when tar spilled on his head when he was working in a well...I don't know if it grew back, but the story was that it didn't. And his teeth rested in a glass in the bathroom. I never saw him with teeth, though he could clean an ear of corn like you wouldn't believe. I remember he liked to put sugar on his sliced tomatoes.
I was always kind of afraid of him, but I do remember one time when he took me out to the shed and showed me some newly hatched baby chicks. Before he died he lost both of his legs from poor circulation. I didn't feel much when he died because I never really felt I knew him (much as I never really knew my other grandfather either).
But after his death, Grandma lived with us for awhile. I used to love watching her brush her hair, which came to her waist. She would braid it and put it in a crown on to of her head.
When I think back on my own grandparents, I realize that grandparents are special whether they live next door and see them all the time, or whether you only see them a few times a year. It's how they make you feel that makes all the difference. I feel sad that I could never feel about my father's mother the way I did about my mother's.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Karen and myself with my mother's parents