Reminder: The questions answered in this occasional column are posed by actual people.
Dear Savvy Sister,
What’s up with today’s grandparents? We all grew up with grandparents who were willing to be present and look old — and help from time to time. My grandmother lived with us for a few months out of every year — and we went to stay with her each summer. Today, I find that generation to be too active, disinterested or out-of-touch to be “on the scene.” What gives?
When I was a kid, my grandmother came to our house every Wednesday to be with us and help my mother with chores. She was one of the transformative influences of my young life. When I was in kindergarten, she always took me to the K&B drugstore diner for lunch, where I ordered fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. Fast-forward 40 years: Where are all the drugstore diners? Can you imagine having lunch at Walgreens?
You’re right to notice that grandparent involvement has become less common these days. I think it’s a characteristic of the Senior Liberation Movement, which is marked by a “been there, done that mentality” and the collaborating fact that old isn’t really old any more. But c’mon now – if we look at the issue unselfishly, isn’t that a good thing? We (I) will be there before we know it, and let me state publicly for the first time ever – I AM NOT AFRAID OF BOTOX. Nor have I ruled out an AARP senior women’s boxing match. My left hook gets stronger by the day. That’s not to say I won’t be a loving, present grandmother who buys my kids’ kids double scoop ice cream cones. But stay up all night with a colicky infant when I’m 70? Um, no.
In my opinion, all this boils down to changing times. Much like women are no longer sentenced to lives in the kitchen, seniors these days don’t need to have blue hair and dentures, and they’re not dependent on their grown children for survival, at least until they lose mobility. So they don’t feel obligated to hang around all the time when there are planes to jump out of and casinos to visit.
In addition, grandparents aren’t the only changing societal group. They might not help us as much – but let’s be honest, we don’t help them as much, either, at least not until they really need it. We are all so damn BUSY. Unless you live on the outskirts of someplace like Harvey, North Dakota, you probably don’t spend nearly enough time sitting on the front porch shucking corn while Grandpa chews his pipe.
I don’t know if this is a good thing. I still dream about living within watermelon-seed spitting distance of my parents and sisters so that my children could grow up with their cousins and I’d never have to spend Christmas feeling homesick. It would be like a commune, but without sharing toilets, which I could never do. But then my sister calls to tell me that she thinks I should be the first in the family to get eyelid surgery in case it’s not safe after all, and I remember that there are reasons we live in different regions.
Oh, well. It is what it is. Have a cookie. Just because a grandmother didn’t bake it doesn’t mean it won’t taste good.
the Savvy Sister
Do you have a problem or question? Need help dealing with an irritating spouse, child or neighbor? The Savvy Sister can help. Write to her at [email protected]