National Grandparents Day was observed on September 11, eclipsed by a larger remembrance. A personal recollection of my father's parents came to mind.
Growing up, a portrait of my paternal grandparents hung on the living room wall, sunk in a gilded frame. I couldn’t connect with their austere faces. Both died before my birth. Couldn’t we take it down, I wondered as a thoughtless teenager? Why did we need it?
My mother explained patiently to me that my father wanted to remember his parents; the portrait gave him comfort. I relented with some embarrassment.
Each grandparent represents one quarter of our genetic make-up. That’s DNA. Then, there’s GPS, the geographic-cultural positioning of our grandparents. In a diverse North American culture, many grandparents – and parents – come from thousands of miles away to escape war and persecution – mostly to share in opportunities of a new land.
Many of our grandparents came to the US and Canada in hardship and through a strong work ethic created a legacy for their children – our parents – and us.
My father’s parents came from Poland, between the wars. My grandfather left in advance of my grandmother and two young children, sailed to Toronto, Canada, where he set up a downtown butcher shop. He worked his business for 9 years, and then sent for his family whom he had been supporting through telegrams. Three new children were born in Toronto, including my father. It’s not uncommon for immigrants to spend years apart before reuniting.
As an adult Boomer I’ve answered my teenage query. We need to honor our grandparents.