This Grandparents’ Day is bittersweet. I am blessed to still have one grandmother in my life, and my husband still has three of his grandparents to celebrate. My children are blessed with grandparents who love and treasure them immensely.
But this will be my children’s first after losing their beloved Papa, and that makes us sad. Actually, according to my son, it makes him “happy-sad” and he “doesn’t know what to do when [he] feel like that.”
Grief is a lot like motherhood: bittersweet. In motherhood, you are so happy as your children reach new milestones and achieve great things in their life, while also feeling a twinge of sadness for the baby you are slowly losing. Independence is a beautiful gift, but each step away from you is a little heartbreak.
Grief is like that. With each new milestone or achievement you feel the loss again. So while life moves on, and you experience happiness, there’s a little shadow there reminding you of the face you miss seeing. That shadow clouds memories too. Memories that bring immense happiness can also trigger feelings of sadness: fishing with Papa, finding critters together, Battleship games, and just being together.
I think that last one is the key to the magic of grandparents: the gift of time.
Papa was in a motorized wheelchair for the entirety of my children’s lives. They never saw Papa walk, or run. Papa didn’t get to take them fishing or hunting or on boat rides. But they absolutely adored spending time with him because when he was with them, he was all in. There were no distractions, he was totally yours. He would be the “kid” to their “dad” or “mom.” He followed the unspoken rules of the game or gave them a bit of their own medicine by taunting them. He read books to them, and gave them a lap to sit on. He used his chair to pull wagons, and race new bikes. He was simply there, and understood the value of quiet presence.
As parents, we have so many responsibilities that make the world go round for our children. We have laundry that must be washed, and food that must be cooked, and messes that must be cleaned. A grandparent’s gift is that they are not part of that circle; their actions are not necessary for the running of the household. Their time can be invested in their grandchildren…