Grandparenting — Then and Now

Oct 17, 2022 by

Grandparenting — Then and Now

by Sharon Prescott

I grew up in the small town of Utica, New York, where most of my friends had frequent contact with their grandparents. I saw my grandparents less, since they lived in Brooklyn. Most contacts with them were very brief telephone conversations. Cell phones were nonexistent and long-distance calls were charged by the minute, so one spoke quickly and always stuck to important matters such as “How is business and is everyone healthy?”. My vivid memories were that of arriving at my grandparents’ home after a five-hour car ride, only to be told by my parents that my sister and I were to behave, sit quietly, and not touch anything in the grandparents’ home because they were very old and would be upset if anything got broken. My grandparents were in their early 70’s, but they sure seemed to act and look much older than their years compared to today’s grandparent standards. After dinner, my grandfather would come into the living room, settle down in his wing-back chair, and just smile at us. My grandmother was much more outgoing — always hugging, kissing and giving us sweet treats.

Once I had children, I saw a tremendous difference in grandparenting. My own parents only visited occasionally, since San Diego was 3,000 miles away from Utica and my folks were terrified of flying. By the 1970’s, phone conversations were affordable and photos of the grandchildren were being exchanged between family and friends. Unfortunately, Skype and the Internet weren’t around yet. In 1975, my in-laws decided to move to San Diego. They enjoyed the day-to-day role of being grandparents. These moments have left wonderful, lasting memories with my sons who are now 46 and 50 years old. I hear about the mischief they got into while staying at Gammi and Poppa’s home. They showed a great deal of much respect and love for their grandparents — something that is often taken for granted.

After being widowed for several years, I was fortunate enough to find a wonderful man who is now my steady companion. Since neither one of my sons chose to make me a grandmother, I was very blessed to have acquired two darling grandsons through my relationship. When I met Jerry, there was only Will who was a year old, and almost four years later, little Zach was born. We have spent many wonderful times babysitting and becoming close to the children — reading, playing games with them, attending their birthday and holiday parties, as well as getting used to this generation of organic parenting.

The realization that life should never be taken for granted came the day before Father’s Day of this year. We had just finished watching a movie on T.V. when the phone rang and Jerry’s response to his son Michael’s call was “He fell from a second story window? Is Zach going to be okay? What do the doctors’ say? Where is Will right now?”

It was quite a shock and difficult to focus on what had just happened to little Zach. Once Zach was “out of the woods”, we were given the details regarding our unanswered questions about his fall. We were not shocked, yet were unprepared to hear the details that this little, but active, grandchild of ours chose to climb onto a sofa which happened to be next to a window. The screen was loose so it didn’t take much for Zach’s hands to push the screen out with his body soon to follow. The other children immediately ran to Zach’s parents when they realized what happened. This occurred at the home of close friends. All out panic ensued. We chose to remain calm and optimistic. Since little Zach and his family were not in San Diego at the time of the accident, we were not able to see our grandson until his return to San Diego. By the next morning, we had a quiet celebration at our home with our sons and daughter-in-law. By afternoon, Zach and his family had returned to San Diego.  During our visit that evening, Zach couldn’t wait to tell us how he “fell out of the window”. Our little grandson had escaped with only minor bumps and bruises, a true Father’s Day miracle.