After having children of my own and seeing my parents with my children, I'm inclined to agree with Bill Cosby who said, "These are not the people I grew up with! These are old people who are trying to get into Heaven!" But does the "grandparent connection," i.e., the love, the spoiling, the attitudes, work the other way as well? Would a child treat a grandparent differently than he/she would treat a parent?
I asked myself this question this weekend as I was giving my eighty-six-year-old grandmother a makeover. Yes, a makeover. If you knew my grandmother, you'd understand. You see, Grandmother has not had a pie life. In fact, she's had more than her fair share of rough spots. Yet, through it all, she held her head up proudly knowing, as she'd so often been told, that she was one of the prettiest women in town.
"I used to be...." Most often a sentence that begins with those four words is tinged with sadness...a sense of something once treasured and now forever lost. "I used to be one heck of a ballplayer when I was in school," says the man in a wheelchair. "I used to be a seamstress and sew all my own clothes," says the woman whose hands are so arthritic she can barely move them. "I used to be the prettiest woman in Saltville," says my Grandmother.
She doesn't go many places anymore; but when she does, she wants to look nice. A couple of weeks ago, she was going to a church function so she put on some makeup. According to my mother, Grandmother's cheeks looked like they were flaming. At my mother's appalled expression, Grandmother asked, "I have on too much rouge, don't I?" She then went and washed her face.
I share my grandmother's pride in appearance, so I empathized with her. I knew she wanted to look as good as she could. I also knew she'd forgotten everything she'd ever known about makeup. So I went out and got all the little goodies women love to play with-from moisturizer to lipstick-and I called and asked Grandmother if she'd like a makeover. Sounding as excited as a child on her birthday, she said she'd love it.
My mother was having a party on Saturday, so I went up an hour early to help Grandmother get fixed up. Again, I was struck by her childlike behavior-wide-eyed, obedient, trusting-as I treated her to a makeover. When I finished, she asked for a mirror. "This is not me," she said, at first glance. I thought she was disappointed until she elaborated. "I look beautiful." And she did. [The downside is that now she wants me to do her makeup when she's dead, but I digress.]
The entire incident made me wonder: Grandparents will go above and beyond for their grandchildren, but will the grandchildren return the favor when they're grown? It has long been established that as we and our parents age, our roles reverse. What of the roles of grandparents and grandchildren? Do the grandchildren go back and coddle their grandparents, or do they leave them by the wayside? And if today's ME-centered teens are giving back what they were given, that's a sad commentary on parenting.
If, like me, you were given loads of love, called "angel" and taught the value of a Peppermint Pattie®, you should repay that love with love. If you were driven around on country roads in a Dodge Swinger® with the windows down while singing Broadway show tunes at the top of your lungs, you can at least brighten a day or two with a phone call or a card. And what harm would it do you to bring a smile to the face of someone who searched far and wide for the riding toy you rode the wheels off of?