Grandparents Day connects generations with bonds of love Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Sep. 02, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be observed on the first Sunday after Labor Day. This year we observe Grandparents Day on September 12. We remember and thank those who helped to make this special day possible.

We thankfully remember Hermine Beckett Hanna, for her contributions to Grandparents Day. On February 21, 1990, New York Congressman James T. Walsh officially recognized her efforts on behalf of grandparents

Also we gratefully remember Michael Goldgar, who proposed Grandparents Day in the 1970s. After he visited his aunt in an Atlanta nursing home, he spent $11,000 of his own money in lobbying and meeting frequently with legislators to have Grandparents Day officially recognized.

Finally, we thank the Senate and former President Jimmy Carter who officially recognized Marian McQuade as the founder of National Grandparents Day. Mrs. McQuade encouraged grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage of their grandparents and suggested that the young adopt a grandparent.

The official song of National Grandparents Day is "A Song for Grandma And Grandpa" by Johnny Prill. The forget-me-not is Grandparents Day's official flower.

Honoring our grandparents

On Grandparents Day we recognize our parents and especially our grandparents for influencing our lives. Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, grandparent and founder of the Foundation for Grandparenting, states that one of the most significant gifts in a child's life is a loving bond with grandparents.

Unlike many busy, multi-tasking parents, grandparents have more time to create wholesome memories such as going for ice cream, telling stories, or recognizing the stars of the big dipper! My neighbors enjoy their grandchildren in these and other ways. Young and old take turns enriching each other.

Children valued by grandparents tend to do better in school and to feel comfortable with older people. The comfort that a grandparent can provide helps grandchildren feel safe, secure, and loved.

A grandmother I know passes on traditions to her grandchildren. She bakes a birthday cake and gives it to her grandson on Christmas Eve. Then they celebrate Jesus' birthday with Bethlehem joy.

If they are alive, we can remember grandparents by sharing a bouquet of forget-me-not flowers, a card, a phone call, or lunch. We can also visit grandparents who are shut-ins or nursing home residents. If they have died, we can ask them to pray for us or we can pray for them.

Since Grandparents Day falls on a Sunday, some schools offer grandparent activities on school days. They invite grandparents to participate in special assembly programs or, if a Catholic school, a Mass. Sometimes students share story-telling activities or artwork that relate to their grandparents. At St. Joseph School in Sinsinawa, the school invited grandparents to a Mass and reception.

Fond memories

Some say that when a baby is born, new grandparents are born. I fondly recall a nursing home resident named Sally whom I visited regularly. Her dream was to hold her baby granddaughter. She bubbled with joy as she told me how good she felt when she finally held her dream.

My paternal grandparents died before I was born. But I feel I know them somewhat through stories. Relatives say that I inherited some of their traits. Still, I wish I had known them.

When I was a boy, I waited eagerly for my other grandpa to come to town. I enjoyed visiting my grandparents' farm which was a circus of delights, surprises, and dangers. There I remember cutting my finger badly. I can still smell the liniment that Grandma put on the cut. Dad drove me to the doctor. The finger required stitches. Every time I smell liniment, I recall Grandma's healing care. Our richest memories are often steeped in smells, feelings, and flavors.

Recently I heard a young boy proudly tell his grandparents and me that Ryan Braun, his favorite baseball player, threw him a baseball at a Brewers game. This is the highlight of his young life.

The patron saints of grandparents are Joachim and Ann. On July 26, 2009, following the Angelus, Pope Benedict stated that the educational role of grandparents is important especially when parents are unable to dedicate an adequate amount of time to their children. The pope then asked the faithful to pray for grandparents "who in families are often witnesses of the fundamental values of life." Then he entrusted to the protection of St. Ann and St. Joachim all grandparents of the world.

The pope's remarks remind me of a grandmother who baby-sat her grandson. She often shared how she tried to influence him by teaching him prayers and Christian values. Occasionally I ask youngsters to share who reminds them of Jesus. Often they reply with emotion, "Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa."

May the Father bless grandparents. May Jesus give grandparents peace and health. May the Holy Spirit inspire us to remember and appreciate our grandparents on Grandparents Day and every day.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.