Another National Grandparents’ Day, the Sunday after Labor Day, is approaching, but it will undoubtedly be ignored by most, even grandparents. According to card companies, the day is less important for revenue than nine other holidays, including St. Patrick’s Day. In 1983, Hallmark predicted that Grandparents’ Day would become the sixth most important day for them, but the occasion still slips by unnoticed. Perhaps with more time in self isolation this year, we could start a wave to honor grandparents in some small way.
In 1956, Marian McQuade was helping to organize a community celebration for seniors over 80 when she noticed how many residents of nursing homes seemed to be forgotten. Wanting to remind people of those forgotten individuals and to honor all grandparents, she became the activist responsible for West Virginia becoming the first state to declare a Grandparents’ Day in 1973. That small step led her and others to the national arena, and in 1978 the observance became a national holiday when President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation. He recognized Marion McQuade as the founder.
While not a federal holiday, the day can become a tradition in our families where we celebrate the seniors among us, pass on interesting family stories, and make the connections between the generations stronger. A face-to-face visit may be out this COVID-19 year; however, a quick call, text, Skype, or Zoom with multiple family members may raise the spirits of seniors, especially those who live alone. Parents might remind their children to send a letter updating Grandmother about recent activities. Including a snapshot would be extra special. Remembering someone takes so little time, but we forget how important that connection is.
As role models, we grandparents need not sit back and wait for the young ones to acknowledge us on our day. Take the initiative and start promoting Grandparents’ day. As a grandparent, we have memories that are worth sharing. If you remember something noteworthy about one of your grandparents, compose the narrative on the computer and send it to not only your grandchildren but your children and other relatives who might enjoy the memory. If you have old or current pictures of you, frame them and send one to each of your grandchildren with a note about the occasion and the year of the picture, or have copies of one special one made for all the grandchildren. How about a picture of you when you were their age?
If your family still gets together with extended members for an occasional meal, how about having a retro potluck with foods your parents cooked. You can copy and send the recipes and ask a few people to fix a dish. Even a novice in the kitchen can concoct a Jello salad. Have a few substantive questions ready to keep the table conversation entertaining while focused on yesteryear. Do you have old movie reels and a projector? Select the most interesting film to show after dinner and save the others for another year. Better yet, have DVDs made and hand them out.
Pull out old photo albums and make them visible for the children to see. One of my favorite things when visiting my maternal grandparents was flipping the pages of the albums that were stored under the staircase behind the piano. I occasionally put two on the coffee table and wait to see if anyone selects them.
It might take time to compose, but start a list of questions to test the family knowledge. Although my grandchildren know my mother was a nurse, they may not know that my father was a butcher. How many siblings did each of them have? Where were they born? Where was I born? That may be a project for 2021 Grandparents’ Day celebration.
Send an email to friends ahead of time to alert them to Sept. 13, 2020. Grandparents’ Day was important to Marian McQuade. She never wanted it commercialized, and she got her wish. Maybe a bit of attention to the day would be worthwhile though. Being remembered with love is always good, and the givers of the remembrance rarely regret their actions.