“We’re raising grandparents at our house now,” came the almost-humorous statement from my good friend’s almost-smiling mouth. The attempt at humor was not lost on the group, but we really didn’t laugh much. It’s not a funny prospect when you’re all staring it in the face. We’ve all got aging parents, some have adult-aged children who won’t grow up, and many of our peers are raising grandchildren when their time for parenting is long-past.
“God knew what He was doing when He gave children to young people,” was my Dad’s confusing (to me) statement when he was just over 50 years of age. He was sitting on the back porch, reading “Bye Baby Bunting” for the fortieth time to his determined 2 year old granddaughter. She was wearing him down and he wasn’t getting any help from the girl’s young dad, who recognized a much-needed respite from his responsibilities when he saw it. I understand my father better now that I have four grandchildren of my own.
My conversation today with another young father certainly gave me pause. I talked about my enjoyment of the new social media for “reconnecting” with friends from my childhood and early adult years. He argued adamantly that his interest was only in “real” friends, the ones who kept contact with him and gave him support each step of the way. As we discussed our differences, I realized that I had been in his position 25 years ago too. I remember how proud I was then of our close friendships, but I had no interest at all in childhood friendships which had gone by the wayside and certainly none in going to class reunions or other social events.
“You just wait. Your day is coming and you’ll change your tune.” I couldn’t believe the words were coming out of my mouth. Why next thing you know, I’ll be saying things like “When I was your age…” and “We’ve never done it like that before.” But from my vantage point, I can see the progression. You go from the arrogant young know-it-all who,with a lovely young bride at your side, has everything necessary to make the planet yours (I hear Helen Reddy singing “…Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world…”), to needing a few close friends (not too many!), all the way to wishing you hadn’t lost contact with those people you met once on vacation. But finally, I’ve come to what should have been an obvious conclusion years ago…I need people! It only took me fifty-some years to figure this out, but at last I’m catching on. (The music fades into Frank Sinatra crooning, “People, people who need people…Are the luckiest people in the world.” It used to be Barbra Streisand, but she’s gone loony, so Frank will have to do.)
As I age, I realize that our lives seem to be sliced up into very definite seasons, some for which we’re well suited and some for which we’re seemingly not equipped at all. The big problem is that I’m not sure I can handle being needed as a friend. That’s the irksome thing about needing people. You need them, they need you. Dependency I can handle. Responsibility, I’m not so very good at. But I’m working on it. Some of it is forced on me, some of it, I determine to take on. It’s a work in progress. I’ll let you know how I do. No wait! You’ll be the ones to know if I’m doing it right. You tell me!
I’m just hoping that when my turn comes to be the grandparent being raised (if it hasn’t already come to that…), I will have been enough of an example to the next generation that they’re ready for what needs to be done.
From The Preacher in Ecclesiastes…“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”