"Oh, my grandparents died," you tell people.
You sigh and maybe recall for a moment how nice it was to have older generations in your family.
You remember the birthday cards, gifts and the yelps of glee when you arrived to visit.
But then you're resigned, right? That's it, they're gone. That's life.
Well, I wanted to let you know there are thousands of grandparents available.
In interviewing dozens of Holocaust survivors, I have found so much more than material for my dissertation. I have found friends and, dare I say, grandparents:
They glow when I call. They tell me I'm pretty and smart. They love spending time and they have delicious stories to tell. That's how I remember my grandparents. They made me feel special even when I had disastrous teeth, couldn't spell, was overweight and had a terrible haircut.
They can be a dream.
But they're spectacular in their own right.
Today, Marty talked about surviving 4 concentration camps. Somehow he has a sparkle in his eye even though he watched his mother and sister sent to gas chambers in Auschwitz.
I dare say at 85 he's actually strikingly handsome. He boasts about his great friends in their 30s. I'm not surprised. He's a catch!
Things I've learned about the elderly:
1. They have paradoxically more and less time than we do. (They have all day, but probably less days.)
2. They have all lost something precious.
3. Their lives didn't go as planned.
4. They appreciate many things we have not yet come to appreciate.
5. They have seen more change than we have.
6. Many are busier than I am.
7. It's easy to hang out with them. You don't have to be charming, they just talk.
8. They are seeing their friends die and/or get sick.
9. Being around younger people enlivens them.
10. Regarding holocaust survivors, at this point I think most would rather tell you their story than receive reparations. Please listen.
11. Every tragic story has some moment of hope.
12. They were once young.
13. They are afraid of losing their ability to move about.
14. They appreciate your time.
15. They've beat incredible odds to be alive so long..consider they know something.
I cannot handle all these grandparents alone. There are so many!
Please volunteer your cheeks for pinching whether you're 20 or 50. It's a cliche, but you will get far more than you give. Start talking to someone eating alone at a restaurant or riding the metro. Help them with the door and talk to them like people.
You'll be old too one day...if you're lucky. How would you like to be treated when old age finds you?
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.