This Ain’t Your Mama’s Grandparents Day

Posted on September 12, 2015



With all due respect to generations of grandparents who came before, boomers are slowly making inroads on yet another sacred, Hallmark-bedazzled day.

Both of Life in the Boomer Lane’s grandmothers were long gone before LBL was born. But she had a step-grandmother. Goldie.  Goldie was one of the gentlest, softest spoken people on earth. There was no doubt that she loved LBL, her only grandchild. There was no doubt that she would have done anything to keep LBL safe and happy. But she was so passive, that often, she seemed like a spectator to her own life. Because her husband, LBL’s grandfather, forbade her to attend night school, she remained illiterate in the English language. Because her husband didn’t see the need to pay the money to renew her meds for hypertension, she died of congestive heart failure at age 73.

Had LBL used her as a model of grandparenthood, she would now be writing about the joys of being a grandparent in a very different way. She would be talking about the too-profound-for-words feeling she gets when she interacts with her grandchildren. Or, if she were writing one of her humorous posts, she would talk about all the ways that grandchildren are superior to children. Instead, she chooses to go in another direction.

LBL’s grandchildren are lucky. They live in loving, committed families and have parents who have strong, healthy relationships and enough financial resources to provide them the kinds of experiences that LBL, herself, could not even have dreamed of when she was growing up.  They have hands-on grandparents who are healthy, strong, and financially sound. Their grandparents have taken them on a Caribbean cruise, to Disney World, on camping trips, to Turkey, and to a resort in Mexico. They have taken them to museums, to fairs and festivals, to Broadway shows, and to any number of kiddie-friendly events in the places in which they live. They happily provide full time child care when needed.

One might think that it would be impossible for LBL to do more for her grandchildren than what is already being done. But she realized that wasn’t so. The experiences these children have been provided are being done against the backdrop of a planet in trouble. The beaches they play on are at risk. The campgrounds they stay in are at risk. The activities they engage in are being more and more threatened by weather patterns that are increasingly volatile and destructive.

In small ways, they have already been impacted. LBL’s granddaughter’s family, residents of Seattle, had to cancel a planned vacation to another part of Washington state last month, because of the fires that were raging in the area. Storm Sandy knocked out power for weeks at the home of LBL’s grandsons’ aunt and cousins on Long Island. Their great-grandmother died during the storm. As the years go on, weather-related challenges will have an even deeper and longer-lasting impact.

For LBL, the answer was clear. She would use whatever energy she had to work toward the health of a planet that would allow her grandchildren to continue to live the very fortunate lives they live now. For them, and for the grandchildren of all other grandparents, she would take a stand. In years to come, when her grandchildren would look her in the eye and ask, “When you saw these things happening, what did you do?”  She would not want her answer to be “Nothing.”

And so she joined a newly-formed, national advocacy group, Elders Climate Action. On Wednesday and Thursday, in honor of Grandparents Day (September 13), and, as a physical manifestation of her love for her grandchildren, her future grandchildren and for the grandchildren of others, she joined well over 100 other grandparents to lobby Congress to support the Clean Power Plan and the Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation.

The two days were thrilling, exhausting, uplifting, and empowering. She had the same heady feelings she had as she did back in college, when she marched and participated in sit-ins to end the Vietnam War (minus the energy level and with the addition of blistered feet). Back then, the political health of her country was uppermost in her mind. Now it was the physical health of her grandchildren and the planet.

Elders Climate Action, along with a host of other national organizations, is relatively new, as is the growing awareness that many people have to do something before it is too late.  LBL urges all grandparents (and parents) to do this for the children. Ask yourselves what kind of world you want them to inhabit, and take action to make that happen.

We have given our grandchildren Disney World. Now, let’s give them the world, period.