Back when I was a young lad, my paternal grandmother lived with my father’s sister and her husband because, my maternal grandmother had lived with us. Once a week, my father would drive my mother and me the 10 kilometres to visit them. We would have biscuits and tea, and maybe a cake, or even lunch, while we all talked for an hour or three. Several times over those years, I remember asking my father “do I have to go?”, because I could always think of something that I’d prefer to be doing. He simply replied “yes, you do”. There was no explanation, just that bald statement. Being a fairly obedient child, I then shut up and went.
Several years later, I had finished school and went to university to study geology and graduated in early 1977. After the graduation ceremony we drove out to my Aunt’s home where my grandmother still lived and I still have what I thought was a rather silly photograph of this little lady in her 80s, seated with a serene smile on her face, with a rather garishly attired grandson (it was the 1970s!) in academic gown and mortarboard, holding his enrolled testamur, and embarrassed to be still in this getup a couple of hours after graduating.
A decade later my partner and I started a family, and becoming parents is the most astoundingly emotional experience I could ever have imagined, and it is certainly the most rewarding. It is turning a couple of babies who you love unconditionally, into a couple of lads you not only love, but admire and respect. I often wonder how a couple of amateurs such as us could get this so right.
A few decades later our lads have found partners and have become parents themselves, and thus we have become grandparents. While this is just as emotional an experience as being a parent, a large part of the extraordinary responsibility is missing, in that our grandchildren are dependent not on us, but on our children. Like most parents with young children and full-time jobs, they are as busy as can be imagined, and we just sit in our empty nest waiting for the next photo or video to arrive on our phones, or for the weekly or fortnightly facetime phone-call. Fortunately, these do arrive regularly, but they are just minute snippets of life and are nothing like the real thing. Family visits are wonderful and we try to jam as many cuddles and other interactions into those times as we can. Not that I’d really know, but I suspect being a grandparent is like being addicted to narcotics, in that you cannot get enough of these little humans. Whatever you see of them, is never enough. It has taken me fifty years, but now I understand, completely, what my father was on about.