Voices of OasisGrandparents Day — some of us have older grandchildren who are already adults, some younger ones; some close by, some far away; and unfortunately due to broken relationships, some estranged. I can only speak for myself and my own granddaughters, a nine-year-old in Washington State and a 5 1/2 year-old in West Virginia.

My grandparents lived in Minnesota and we made the trip from St. Louis north every summer.  However, they were all deceased by the time I was in middle school and I have few memories. I’m so glad the world has changed! I’m grateful that I have the resources to visit them at least once or twice a year and perhaps show them around my home town once or twice, as well.

Julie Blow and her grandchildren

Technology has helped bridge the gap.

My first granddaughter kissed the computer monitor when she was barely one, and I was “hooked.” Every time we visited we had fun on the computer, either looking at photos of her as a baby, making silly faces on Photo Booth, or playing with letters, numbers, and eventually words on a word-processing page. When we’re apart, we enjoy using such sites as Skype or Duo. I can see the latest school project or gymnastic twirl.

What’s in the mail?

Another fun way to connect with grandchildren who live out of town is through regular mail; who doesn’t like to receive a letter?  I get lots of free cards in the mail, usually with animals on them.  And stickers — sometimes I buy sheets at the Dollar Store and sometimes I snip them off the many address labels that come in the mail. Following my faith tradition, I remind them of their baptism dates.

I’ve always encouraged the love of reading. A monthly magazine reminds them that Grandma loves them, and sometimes I send a book from Amazon directly to their homes as a surprise. It’s not really an extravagance, as I know if we lived in the same city, I’d be spending a lot more money at fast food restaurants and movies with them.

Redefining fun

As they get older, so do I. At 75, I can no longer do some of the fun activities we used to do. I can’t be as physically active as they, so joining them on hikes or cave exploring just can’t be done anymore.  So I’ve looked for new activities. 

We can still share books and cook together. On the older granddaughter’s last visit I showed her how to sew and she made a tote bag.  It took longer than I thought for her to feel confident and sew a straight line, but eventually she got the hang of it and more importantly, was proud of her achievement.

I’ve also learned to ask her how to do something on the computer or the cell phone; she loves to show me how something works, chuckling that she knows more than Grandma.

Telling a story one memory at a time

I regret I know nothing about my grandparents’ lives and not much about my parents’ lives.  So some time ago I got a three-ring binder and divided it into decades.  As the memories flowed, the sections grew.  I didn’t start from beginning to end; I worked when a memory was triggered such as my mom’s visit to us in Japan. One time I just wrote where I was when important national events took place (man on moon, assassinations, 9-11).  When J.C. Penney’s closed its catalog division, I was prompted to write about how important it had been when we lived overseas. I could order Sesame Street items for my then three-year-old! I’ve added where I’ve lived, where I’ve worked, where I’ve traveled, including what we did on all our visits.

My next endeavor will be photo projects, a “Grandma and Me” book for each.  When my older granddaughter starts college, I’ll be 90; the younger one will graduate from high school in 2031! So I might miss major events in both their lives.  I hope to leave a legacy for them, a legacy of memories. Time well spent.