By Jacqueline J. Holness
Today is National Grandparents Day. I must admit I have never observed this day although in 1979 President Jimmy Carter designated the first Sunday after Labor Day as a day to celebrate grandparents. According to his proclamation, available on the website for The American Presidency Project, the rationale behind this designation was to honor our “Forbears. Just as a nation learns and is strengthened by its history, so a family learns and is strengthened by its understanding of preceding generations. As Americans live longer, more and more families are enriched by their shared experiences with grandparents and great-grandparents.”
I think the reason why I haven’t celebrated National Grandparents Day is because it is not promoted with the same vigor as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Step into almost any grocery or department store and one cannot help but be inundated with advertisements about celebrating mothers and fathers around those holidays.
As a first generation American daughter of Jamaican parents, I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked with my grandparents when they were alive as we lived in different countries. I saw them about once a year although my paternal grandmother stayed with us for several months in an extended visit to the United States when I was in elementary school. I saw my grandparents enough to have cherished memories of them, including hearing my grandmother’s fervent prayers early in the morning and the assorted D&G Jamaican sodas my grandfather lavished on me. Still, most of what I am learning about grandparents and daily living has come from watching my parents with my nephew and niece.
Since my parents live close to the parents of my nephew and niece, my parents have contributed significantly to their upbringing. When my 16-year-old nephew was a rambunctious little boy, he often accompanied his grandparents to North American Christian Conventions during the summer. He was the lone recipient of their grandparenting love and influence until his little sister was born nine years ago. Now, as a teenager, he relishes traveling with my mother to Jamaica every summer where they help to facilitate a Vacation Bible School at one of the churches where my grandfather served as minister. She says he is a “big help” to her in Jamaica, and I imagine spending time with his grandparents in the summer as a child set the tone for the missionary work he does with his grandmother today. In addition, not only is he learning about his grandmother and her childhood in her homeland, he is learning about his great-grandfather’s life and impact through her.
My niece loves to spend time on the weekends with Grammy and Grampy, nicknames she came up with for her grandparents. She particularly loves to spend time with Grampy, who has read to her since she was a baby. At her third-grade class awards ceremony months ago, my niece’s teacher told her she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw her byline in print someday, and then she honored her with a Creative Writing Award. I believe that my father’s love of reading has been passed down to her and has impacted her writing. And these are only two of many ways that I’ve observed the impact that my parents have had on the lives of my nephew and niece. I’m ashamed I haven’t thought about celebrating their unique contributions as grandparents before now.
Unfortunately, it seems I’m not alone in my lack of acknowledgement of National Grandparents Day. According to grandparents.com, the website of the American Grandparents Association, 66 percent of grandparents have never celebrated their day either. The sad statistic was included in the article “Surprising Facts About Grandparents.” Another surprising fact from the article is that “grandparents represent one-third of the population, with 1.7 million new grandparents added to the ranks every year.” Also, “grandparents lead 37 percent of all U.S. households in this country.” Undoubtedly, grandparents are worthy of celebrating as they significantly influence American culture.
For ideas on celebrating grandparents, legacyproject.org claims to be the “largest and most comprehensive online source of free ideas and activities for a Grandparents Day event at any time of the year.” According to the website, “by 2030, 1 in every 5 Americans will be over 65 years of age. This demographic shift creates the potential for rich intergenerational connections across seven or more generations.” Hopefully, in honoring the generations that came before us, we can prepare for the generations to follow us.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).