Aging Grandparents and A Grand Grandson


He sat next to me on the plane today. Was late boarding. Turns out he was standby, had missed 2 earlier flights–needed to get back to the east coast after coming briefly and unexpectedly to see his very ill grandmother in Nevada.

He also needed to sit back and unwind but didn’t think he could. He’d already been at the airport for hours and it was only 10 am. After this short flight, he hoped there would be standby room on the next flight that would get him to Philadelphia, in time to take one more short flight home before that little airport shuts down for the night and precludes take off from Philly. And he has work tomorrow. Never-the-less, this visit was worth the inconvenience.

He’s college age, I think. Is working full-time at a good job. Last Wednesday afternoon an unexpected phone call with information that his grandmother had a cancer diagnosis, and the probability of a short time to live, catapulted him to action. He talked about how much he loved his grandmother; about his getting on the plane to Nevada the next morning–standby; he just had to come, he said.

I think this was his first year working at his job. Clearly he must have used up most of his personal days with this trip, but I doubt he cared. I think he would have moved heaven and earth to be at his grandmother’s side. And his devoted grandparents, “soul-mates–married over 50 years,” were now separated: his grandfather at home, his grandmother at the hospital where she would be for three weeks of chemo, already begun.

He related how she brightened up when he arrived. Upon questioning, he said he was her favorite. Obviously he adored her. He thought his presence made an important difference, adding “it might sound strange,” but he had this feeling–that she was actually getting better. He said it was hard to explain.

Before the announcement to turn off all cell phones was made, he had a text on his cell phone. He moved it over to me and said “look”–TEXT

Don’t grandmothers say–all the time–that being with grandchildren is the best!  How often do they spontaneously pull out their pictures, talk about their accomplishments, or about their new jobs or upcoming marriages? Yes, grandchildren are good medicine. From infancy on they add to our parents lives, helping them age well.

And who could ask for a better grandson!

(Text used with permission. Double-click to enlarge.)


Help Aging Parents: I Just Called to Say I Love You

The flight back to NY will soon take off. Cell phones are active. One last conversation before we’re told to turn off all electronic devices–“anything with an on-off button,” says the flight attendant.  “I love you” seems a popular ending to the conversations. I’m thinking younger people use that expression a lot….sometimes so often that it seems to me its meaning is diluted, and I wonder how much it really means.

In the olden days it meant the world. Think Stevie Wonder and the popularity of the song whose title heads this post….. it continues: “and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” I’m sitting on the plane for over 4 hours. My thoughts turn to aging parents, grandparents and elderly friends and I wonder how often they hear those–to their generation– tender words, especially when they live alone.

And then I think about care facilities and the “honeys” and the “sweeties” which clearly aren’t delivered in the empowering affectionate terms younger people experience. (If you’ve been reading my blog you know I find those terms diminishing, not endearing, to older people.)

So perhaps we should phone some elderly friends when we have unaccounted-for time and let them know how much we value them. We all know it’s important for older people to stay connected and I think it’s safe to say the elderly don’t receive that many compliments–or–what we used to call– “strokes.” And doesn’t a phone call show we really care? And doesn’t that make people feel good?  I know lonesome older people often talk and talk–and it’s much longer than we’d like; but that just proves how important the phone call is.

(….I’m recalling my father’s mother–an aging, small-of-stature, grandma-looking woman who would always tell us about any compliment she received.  I was a little girl then and it seemed strange that she would tell us about a compliment. In retrospect, it was obviously important to her–may have been one of the best things–or the best thing–that happened for her that week…)

My last thought is about the unconditional love from pets. R has said many times she’d love to have a pet again but at 98 she “doesn’t want to take on more responsibilities.” I get home very late tonight. She’ll be my first call in the morning.