I Remember Nana
BY JOANNE WARDELL
JOY! There is no other word for the emotion you feel when that first grandchild is born. It does not matter if you will be known as Grandma, Grammy, Nana or Nannie, this monarchial family title brings visions of a unique and wonderful relationship to come.
Oops! Stop the lovely music and drop the curtain on this picturesque scenario. That “unique and wonderful relationship” was not going to be so easy for this new grandmother to achieve. Little did I know that I would be facing a few significant barriers to the development of that bond. It took several years, but I did eventually find a way to grow that relationship. With a little personal history, I will share exactly how I accomplished this bonding and how you too can have the fun of further enhancing your Grandparent/Grandchild connection.
I should mention that this program will work as well for grandfathers and can be used for one or many grandchildren. You need no special equipment, and you can customize the design to your liking. Only one dictum is advised: begin the active part of this program when grandchildren reach age eighteen or nineteen years.
You may be one of those fortunate grandparents who accomplished “bonding” with your grandchildren when they were young. However, when my daughter gave birth to my grandson, Charles Jackson, we lived a full continent apart. CJ, as he is called, entered this world in the northeast corner of the United States while I was living and employed in the southwest corner of our country. So, bonding Barrier #1 was simply the far geographical distance between us. CJ’s paternal grandmother, on the other hand, lived near to him and immediately began her bonding. Who could blame her for swooping into the role of CJ’s only Grandmother in my absence? And so, I resigned myself to the fact that I would see my only grandson on those annual short vacations which my employment would allow.
I did make annual flights to the east coast to happily and hopefully begin my bonding with CJ. I knew that his paternal grandmother had easily taken on the grandmother title of “Grandma” which was the only title used in our family. So, to be sure that I was not simply labeled Grandma #2, I immediately laid claim to the title of “Nana.” For several years my visits were timed to include the Christmas holiday. I must admit that these holiday visits were fun and did produce bonding. Together we decorated Christmas cookies, drove through neighborhoods looking at the holiday night lights and shared those magical Christmas mornings checking out toys left by Santa. But due to the time restrictions, this once a year connection seemed short and limiting to me.
As CJ grew into boyhood, his boundless energy well surpassed his physical growth. He was “all boy” as some say. My visions of reading stories to him or playing board games together did not materialize. He was a dynamo of energy, playing imaginary “good guy/bad guy” encounters with small action figures which were facsimiles of characters in movies and video games. His verbal sound effects of violent explosions were sprinkled throughout. I watched from a distance and, though intrigued, I did not have the ability, nor an invitation, to enter his solitary, animated and imaginary battle games. In addition, attending CJ’s Little League baseball and soccer games as a spectator provided little social interaction. CJ’s hyper-energetic boyish personality was a temporary Barrier #2, preventing the occurrence of much bonding between us during that stage of his life.
Barrier #3: The teenage years need little explanation. As the hormones rage, teenage boys often seek privacy behind their closed bedroom doors, avoiding parents and all adults as often as possible. So much for any special bonding during those years.
When CJ was 18 years old, I scheduled my annual visit to attend his high school graduation. At his graduation party, I was delighted to see signs that he was now moving from teenage land into adulthood and that a happy and sociable personality was emerging.
Following the graduation related visit, CJ began preparing for college and I, then retired, returned to my far away home. One day I heard a radio broadcast host discussing the topic of Words of Wisdom which were included in his private school education. He lamented the fact that schools no longer exposed children to this topic. None of these short inspirational quotes were ever mentioned in the public schools that I had attended. But I did remember hearing some of them and how they caused me to stop and think introspectively – sometimes doing a bit of self-analysis. At my computer I called up “Words of Wisdom” and was amazed. There were hundreds of quotes – with authors from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Albert Einstein to Mother Theresa to Mark Twain to Anonymous. As I reflected upon some of these quotes, a question entered my mind: might my grandson also enjoy some of these little gold nuggets of wisdom and might some of the resulting new insights generate an increase in our bonding?
Now that CJ had reached age 18, I knew that his mind would be opening to some thoughts on the deeper subjects in life. At this young adult age, many begin to realize that life may be more than “all about me.” College classes often further that thought development. Yes, this was fertile ground time for Words of Wisdom to meet CJ. With enthusiasm, I began reading and collecting these published quotations from books and computer sites. In a small notebook, I recorded a long list of the quotes that struck me as meaningful. I looked for variety – including quotes that addressed serious topics as well as the lighthearted. I then initiated action. Once a month, on any day that was convenient, I would send CJ an email that was titled something like “January Words of Wisdom from Nana.” The body of the email contained only one quote and author (if known). I did not include any salutation or chatty message. I did not expect, nor care, to get any reply from this busy college student who had study time needs and a part time job as well. The “wisdom” messages were short enough for him to read in less than a minute and just might spark a bit thought. Sending monthly emails is essentially cost free if one has a computer. Grandparents without a computer can use U.S. Mail with only the cost of paper and postage stamps. Long “Words of Wisdom” lists can be found online or at the local library. And so, these emails turned into little mini-visits from Nana – creating an ongoing reminder of my existence and my grandparent interest and love.
After a year or two of sending these short monthly emails, my daughter phoned with this message: “Mom, your idea has worked. CJ told me he would like to visit you during a coming class break time.” How wide do you think my smile was when I heard those words? I so enjoyed his visit and the bloom of more bonding with our time together.
CJ has recently graduated from college and is currently considering further study. Therefore, my Words of Wisdom emails are continuing. Young adults usually are, for their first time, questioning all the values to which they have been exposed. There is room for consideration of these wise thoughts that have been preserved for us over the years. These little character-building diamonds of love will be my legacy to my grandson and may hopefully be responsible for him someday saying “I Remember Nana.”
Some of Nana’s favorite WORDS OF WISDOM quotations:
Be compassionate with the aged and tolerant of the weak because someday in your life you will be both…George Washington Carver
In life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love…Mother Teresa
A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes…Mark Twain
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you…Lewis B. Smedes
Laughter is the shortest distance between two people … (unknown)
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed…. Carl Jung
No one makes you feel inferior without your consent…. Eleanor Roosevelt
Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies…. Nelson Mandela
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace…. (unknown)
What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander…Eli Wiesel
Sandwich every bit of criticism between two thick layers of praise…Mary K. Ash
At the intersection where your gifts, talents, and abilities meet a human need: therein you will discover your purpose…Aristotle