Ruby Baker is part of the Caregiving Advice team. Here, she reflects on the joys of getting to know her grandma in a new way, and the privileges of knowing her since birth.
Stories are such an integral part of learning, for people of all ages. We learn best through stories, and the older generation has always been willing to tell them, but they haven’t always been around to do so. Millennials are in this unique position where we get to experience more and more of our grandparents’ lives through their stories. We get to know our grandparents as people, beyond the role we saw them in when we were younger. But this also means we are privy to their struggles, to their last moments, and we are not kept in the dark. It is an odd place to be, sometimes bittersweet.
I am on this strange cusp of Millennial and Generation Z, and my Grandma is much younger than a lot of my friend’s grandmothers because she had my mom at a very young age. I’ve spent a lot of time with her from childhood through my young adult life. But now, in my college years, I have gotten to know her as more than just my Grandma. She has become more of a friend, someone I can call very late at night and ask for advice. Grandma always had this interesting position in my life; she has been very involved and supportive in everything I and my siblings have done from an early age.
Every year, around Christmas, she makes the 45 minute drive from her house to ours with mixed and chilled dough for the family recipe for sandtarts, which are thin sugar cookies with decorations. She and my mom will roll the dough out on our counter, and my siblings and I will split time between decorating, putting cookies in the oven, and taking baked ones out. It’s always a special time for bonding and relationship-building.
When my mom couldn’t come for parent luncheons in elementary school, Grandma would come in. She drives us to activities and takes us to hockey games; until I had my car on campus this past semester, she would drive the hour and twenty minutes to my university and take me home. I have spent long hours in the car with her, forming a relationship and listening to her stories about everything under the sun. This is so different from even my mom, who had a close relationship with the grandmother (who I’m named after), but she died when my mom was still in high school.
At this strange cusp, I am getting to know my Grandma as an adult and valuing her stories and life experience. As someone who has a very intimate relationship with my grandma, I couldn’t imagine not getting to know her in my adult life, but I know there are many adults in older generations that never met their own grandparents, let alone have a relationship with them.
My Grandma’s husband died when I was in high school, and he had spent so much time away from my Grandma at the end of his life that I didn’t really know him. My early childhood is filled with pictures of him holding me, or him playing his old guitar for me and my sisters at holiday dinners. But I didn’t know him, not like I know my Grandma. It is a unique place to be, to know very little about him from my own memories, but to have someone who knew him so intimately tell me his stories.
This unique position I’m in is one that many in older generations did not experience. Older relatives were often gone by the time they were grown enough to properly form relationships or remember them. Millennials and Gen Z kids will and have the opportunity to know their grandparents, to cultivate their stories and learn from them, and to be a huge part of their life. And that is wonderfully bittersweet in every way.