I will never forget that feeling of getting whatever I wanted, when I wanted it – what kid doesn’t love being spoiled.
One day during my two-week stay, I asked my Bobby to take me to the park.
I knew that my great-grandmother’s four brothers died in the Holocaust?
And now that, for the first time, I know my four paternal great-grandparents and great-great grandmother as real, complex people with distinct personalities, I cannot believe I spent my life up to now satisfied with knowing almost nothing about them.
I have one living grandparent—my father’s mother, who’s 89. I visited Nana recently and went through the usual activities—talking about myself in a loud voice, fixing her “broken machine” by unminimizing the internet browser window, being told to slow down Timothy and get in the left lane, even though the turn is still a half mile ahead.
But I also used the visit as an opportunity to do something I have not done enough in my life—ask her questions about our family.Can I say for sure they would not have lived those 5 years had they stayed in our home? But would they have enjoyed the same quality of life? It is important for parents who are considering bringing their own parents into their home for care to understand the effects this decision will have on everyone involved: their parents, marriage, and children.It is important for children whose grandparents move in with them to understand that while it may be difficult and at many times unwanted, that there is something to learn from every situation in life.I even for the first time heard stories about my grandmother’s grandmother, who came over separately from Latvia and lived with the family for her last years—and apparently had quite the personality.Thankfully, she died in 1941, just months before she would have learned that her four sons (who unlike their mother and sister, stayed in Latvia because they had a thriving family business there) were all killed in the Holocaust.I learned a ton about my four paternal great-grandparents—again, I had known the basic info about them, but it was the details that for the first time made them real people.Three of them grew up in rough New York orphanages—the fourth left everything she knew in Latvia in her mid-teens and took a boat alone across the Atlantic, arriving in New York to work in a sweatshop.I don’t know you, but I can almost guarantee that you don’t ask your grandparents (or older parents) enough questions about their lives and the lives of their parents.We’re all incredibly self-absorbed, and in being so, we forget to care about the know quite well—can only be accessed by asking questions.And I got to understand that every single situation has to be dealt with differently.While it was appropriate for my grandparents to move in with our family at the time they did, even though it was one of the most difficult decisions that my father ever had to make, there came a time when they were no longer able to receive the level of care they needed to survive in our home.