My dream grandparent calendar
BY JERRY WITKOVSKY, MSW
I know I’m not alone when I say being a grandparent can be lonely. Let me rephrase that. It’s not being a grandparent that makes me feel lonely. The part where I’m surrounded by my grandchildren is joyous. My heart is full! But it’s the part when they leave to go back to their homes. One minute everyone is in town. My children. My grandchildren. Even great-grandchildren now. And then I’m alone again.
Please come enter my world and share your world with me.
We are conscientious as a family to make sure we are together for “the big two.” In our family that’s Thanksgiving in the fall and Passover in the spring. Since both holidays are planned around a meal, the term feast or famine applies to food, and in terms of visitors as well. I love it. So I’m not suggesting this idea instead of our two annual, full-family gatherings…but in addition to.
What’s my big idea? For each of my children and grandchildren to individually pick a month to visit. That means visits for me to look forward to ten months of the year…the two big ones plus eight more. And for family, that’s one visit a year for each of them.
How Grandparents end up alone.
We’re so proud when our grandchildren get accepted to the college of their choice—no matter that it’s away from home. Exciting new jobs lure family members to new cities.
My family is an example of that. We are spread across the country, with my daughter in California, my son in Wisconsin and grandchildren sprinkled from New York to Las Vegas.
Loss also contributes. After more than 50 years of marriage, I lost my wife to cancer in 2003. But after living my entire life in Chicago, this is my home. My friends are here. I have a significant other here. My history is here. I meet the guys every Friday for breakfast. I “gotta guy” to call for plumbing, computers, everything I need. Moving to a new city at my age would be even more isolating because I would lose all those years of connections.
How about a little one-on-one time?
The idea comes from parents with multiple children. There are plenty of articles about things parents can do to make each child feel special. And one of those things is to give them individual attention…one-on-one time. So I thought, that’s a great idea for grandpa!
Making it affordable
Now that I’m older and my grandchildren are mostly young adults, they may feel like they need to take care of me. But if I were able, I would be jumping on the plane for a spontaneous weekend getaway to visit them in a heartbeat. I will gladly buy a plane ticket for them to visit, because when a grandchild or child visits, that is the biggest gift ever.
Mindshift: from “coping” to “sharing my world”
I used to think of this as a solution for “coping” with being on my own. How do I manage to age in place? But the idea of coping assumes a view through a negative lens, from a place of deficit. Now I say, “come get a peek into my vibrant world!”
At 90 (or 60 or 70 or 80) we have years of experience. We’ve gained a lifetime of skills and talents. Give me one weekend and I will show you.
Walks in the Botanic Garden. Lectures at Northwestern University. Lively discussions about ideas over breakfast. Arts and museums. Come to Chicago. Please come enter my world and share your world with me.
About the Author, Jerry Witkovsky
Author of The Grandest Love and a long-time social work professional, grandparenting activist, and passionate grandpa, author Jerry Witkovsky offers fresh approaches to help grandparents enter their grandchild’s world, to leave values, not just valuables and create a living legacy.
Jerry shares more about the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection School Program and encourages grandparents to unleash their creativity and unique gifts to transform their family at www.grandparentsunleashed.com.