The Role of a Grandparent…. To Spoil or Not?

Responsibility and/or Legacy To Pass Down Life’s Lessons?

Stereopticon slide from Boston Public Library collection via Flickr.com

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to announce that Sandy Taradash’s contributions to this site have a new, regular location under “Baby Boomer Bubbe.” Sandy will continue to contribute her observations about grandparenthood under this topic heading, which will be prominent on our home page too.

My Grandparents were from the Old Country—“Eat all your food! There are starving children in Europe!”

Sandy Taradash

Sandy Taradash

That was enough to get us to eat all those green beans and beets spooned onto our plate because if picturing all those poor emaciated children didn’t pull at your heart strings then the Jewish guilt instilled upon you made you gag down those colorful veggies that just by the nature of being a kid, you weren’t suppose to like! But, if by any chance you were one of the geeks who liked your vegetables, somehow all your friends knew and you were forever marked as the “weird-green-bean-eater” and got pelted in the school cafeteria whenever “vegetable-surprise” appeared as the Tuesday special!

But to the chagrin of all those pitchers who threw those carrot curve balls at you, you can still run out onto the field and chase those singles and doubles with less fear of heart attack while you’re sending donations to the rabbi’s discretionary fund for your old friend Barry who’s recovering from heart surgery!

Is it possible that all that shrayen Bubbe and Zedah and mom and dad did were wise tales that we could have paid attention to? Especially the old folks who could barely speak “Anglish mitt out chan chaccent”—as we could hear my Bubbe say—who came over on the boat with stories that were hard to believe back then but as we learned were common and unto our people. What they experienced was too unreal to believe so we just listened. We didn’t get the real picture until their stories became scenes or episodes from movies, TV show, books and documentaries. For some of us, it may have been too late to tell our parents/grandparents, “I now get it.”

So as adults, as grandparents, what can we do with the legacies of the past? How do they translate into passing the horrors of what our dear ones experienced, without, G-d forbid, frightening our little ones? How do we modernize their stories and explain their leaving, the being forced out of one’s homeland, to make sacrifices and putting their families in harm’s way so as to better their future? Thank G-d this is not what we have to face today because of our dear ones, we live in America—and yet these unbelievable events are taking place now, in 2015— and yet there are still difficult lessons to learn for the 21 Century child and hopefully we recognize that each generation has crosses to bear and we can help to lighten the load.

Is this our responsibility and/or our legacy?

A question that has kept me up numerous nights, do I be the doting grandparent or do I share my stories so my grandchildren know where I came from, let them know the real me? And I didn’t come over on a boat, but I have stories, mine and from the ones who did come over on the boat!

I have a family member through marriage, a young man in his late thirties, whose grandfather served in WWII. After knowing this man for over twenty years, I had never known he was in the Army in Europe. I asked him to share “his stories” with me about the front line, where my Father had also served. And to my great surprise, he refused! He said, “I have never spoken of my experiences as a soldier and I never will!” When I asked him “why?” he lovingly looked at his bride of sixty years and replied, “I have never wanted her to know what I went through. The horror was too much to talk about. She would have had nightmares!”

(I have a treasured gift of my Father’s, a hand written diary that he kept while serving in France and Germany on the front lines. He writes of his experiences while in snow filled fox holes about the terror of war, encounters with Germans and the devotion from soldier to soldier. My father never spoke of this diary but I learned an insight that I would have never known about him by reading it.)

I had mixed feelings about grandpa’s decision to not share part of his life because war is real and to keep that part of one’s life locked up seems so difficult a task, such a burden. I then asked if he had told his two grandsons and expressed that I believe they should know how their grandfather received a medal for bravery but he was adamant that he would never tell.

A year later, this lovely man’s bride passed away and the two grandsons traveled across country for their grandmother’s funeral. When they returned, one of them told me, “Grandpa told me he was in Europe during the war, I never knew that! He said how scared he was, how awful war is and he hoped we would never have to go through one. When I asked for more details, I was told no details, Grandpa just wanted me and my brother to know he served our country.” He said that he was happy his Grandfather shared that little bit but wanted to hear more. I feel a sadness that such a treasure of life’s stories are now buried with grandpa who recently passed away and my grandchildren, who were his great-grandchildren, will never know more about the life of this man.

Like so many of my baby boomer landsmen, next year I have to jump the hurdle of that birthday that puts one over the ‘big hill” of being “really older”—love that Henry Winkler does Baby Boomer commercials! We all still want to identify with The Fonz!—I feel as though I have decisions to make about the legacy I leave behind other than who gets the china and silver. Oy vey! What’s a Baby Boomer Bubbe to do?

Call it fate, serendipity or the help of G-d, but someone else has helped me decide how I share my stories, my legacy. As a 40-year friend, a family Rabbi, and one special mensch, our esteemed Rabbi Richard Address, jewishsacredaging.com, has given me an opportunity to channel My Stories to an audience that may share some of the same dilemmas, experiences and questions that suddenly seem more important than the next vacation destination.

After writing thought pieces for jewishsacredaging.com for the past 3-4 years, I will be writing The Hole Megillah, My Stories. Each day our lives fill the holes of our own story so that we may become whole. With courage from G-d and strength of soul, our goal, hopefully, is that lessons learned may be passed on as our legacy. What more can we ask for? What more can we give?

Piece of the Puzzle

Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces to someone else’s puzzle. Sometimes they know it. Sometimes they don’t.

And when you present your piece to another, whether you know it or not, whether they know it or not, you are a messenger from the Most High.

Lawrence Kushner

 

I am burdened by my experiences

And displaced because of my decisions

Which forever have altered my journey.

But I am not G-d

And can only let serendipity lead me.

 

 I am grateful for the opportunity to unlock the stories within my soul, that I hope may touch others into knowing “we are not alone in our journey and experiences” and as I have learned from my favorite Rabbi, “likes talking-to-likes” connect us and bind us in the common threads of life. And as Jews, we all share and contribute in the fabric that makes the Megillah our story.

 

Feel free to respond with questions, comments or discussion at setaradash@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

About Sandra Taradash
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family's past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs! She has a Master's Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel. Her grandmother's journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.

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