Most readers are not aware that in 1979 President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation to observe National Grandparents Day. He understood the value of the wisdom that grandparents pass on to future generations. For this reason, he proclaimed National Grandparents Day and encouraged everyone to honor the worth of all grandparents.
Unfortunately, many grandparents have been separated from their children and grandchildren because of family feuds and, perhaps, financial constraints. This prevents children from being with their grandparents and learning from them.
Recently, a healthcare worker from the V.A. hospital had to sit down with the family of an 85-year old WW II veteran to discussing having him placed in a nursing home. The distinguished veteran, upon hearing those words, balked. He dreaded the thought of spending his twilight years with a group of octogenarians playing bingo.
The way grandparents are treated around the world is not the same. In Germany, parents can transfer up to a year from work to care for their grandparents. In Portugal, grandparents can take up to a month from work and receive financial assistance to look after unwell grandchildren, and receive an allowance if they live with their grandchildren and teenage mothers. Hungarian grandparents are also entitled to take parental leave and allowances if they live with young grandchildren. In the U.K., grandparents who take care of their grandchildren under 12 are able to claim National Insurance credits that go toward providing them with a full state pension.
While grandparents are now being treated more compassionately in various countries that has not always been the case. Many years ago, the Inuit and Yuit Eskimos of Alaska put their grandmother on an ice floe to die when there was not enough food to go around or when she was no longer able to chew whale blubber, or make a significant contribution to the welfare of the tribe. Historians, however, question the validity of this practice.
There is a poignant story about a young man in China who was saddled with the sole care of his elderly grandfather. Because the grandfather was so demanding, the son decided to kill him. He built a wooden coffin and ordered him to get in. He then put the coffin in a wheelbarrow and pushed it to the edge of a cliff. Just before pushing it over the edge, he heard knocking come from inside the coffin. He opened the coffin and the grandfather said, “I know that I have been a great bother to you, but please, do me a favor. Save the wood because, one day, your own son may need it.”
Today, millions of families are confronted by the same problem; caring for a grandparent at home. Because such situations often complicate family life, placing the grandparent in a nursing home invariably requires making some heavily charged decision-making.
- Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include 19 textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.