Her favorite singer is Frank Sinatra. She was born in 1928 and grew up in a traditional limestone rock farmhouse near Garnavillo, Iowa. The house my grandma grew up in did not have electricity until she was well into her teen years.
My Grandma and I have virtually nothing in common. She was a homemaker her whole life; I work in a man’s world as a professional forester. My grandma had four children by 25. I’m currently 25 and am newly married and childless. She does not miss Sunday church for any reason. I go when it’s convenient. I could go on and on.
While we grew up in homes only 20 miles from each other, there was 70 years in between our formative years. When you look at these differences, it’s easy to understand why it would be hard to converse with each other, yet alone have a deep, meaningful relationship with each other. These are the barriers that often keep those from my grandma’s generation from having a relationship from those of my generation. I see it with my grandma and some of my other twenty-two cousins.
But, she remembers the Great Depression, not from a textbook but from the time she lived through it. She remembers how absolutely everything on their farm was used and reused. Which explains why she still washes out Ziploc bags and reuses them! She remembers how she got the privilege to graduate high school while many other children had to quit school to work or help at their home.
Not to mention, she has a wealth of practical knowledge. When I wanted to learn how to make homemade mashed potatoes, how to make jam from fresh raspberries, or how a quilt is put together, I went to my grandma. At the ripe age of 90 years old she still does all of her own cooking, cleaning, and gardening. She creates multiple quilts a year and takes care of all her own bills. She is a role model, a person to strive to be.
I’ve learned to look past our differences and know when it’s time to listen, and time to keep my opinions to myself. My grandma has learned to do the same, and I’ve actually been able to teach my grandma a thing or two! Those in my grandma’s generation live in a foreign world where it is possible to look up any fact or statistic on a device that is 3 inches by 5 inches, that is always an arm’s reach away. I’ve taught her how you look up facts on Google. I have shown her how to use a DVD player.
It is easy for my grandma’s generation to look at our generation with scorn, and go no further than lecturing in trying to create a relationship. But, it goes both ways. Although, it’s sometimes hard for her, my grandma has learned to do the same. This year, I got married in a non-denominational church, and my devoutly Catholic grandma didn’t say a word about it. Now that’s understanding!
Whether, you are closer to 1928 or 1993 on the birth spectrum, understand that these multi-generational relationships are worth nurturing. They will help you learn, and to appreciate differences in others. You will learn about history in a way that no podcast or internet article can. You will hear about your ancestors and understand where you came from. You will be reminded of what values in life can create true happiness. If you take the time to listen, to learn, to really speak with those older than you, you will thank yourself later. Then, when your grandparent or great aunt or uncle passes away, you’ll have more memories and experiences to share than: their hair was gray and they had false teeth.