Last fall we mourned the passing of my mother, Betsy Hanna Schmidt (she’d insist, “Mrs. Craig Schmidt”). On what would have been her 85th birthday this month, 20 family and friends gathered to celebrate her life. I was amazed at how her life seemed to have impacted her grandchildren as much as us children. I see now that spending time with grandparents brings certain very special gifts if we look for them.
1. A new gear. If you don’t get this one, you won’t get any of the others. They talk and live at a slower pace. Get with it—it’s good for the body and soul.
2. An open ear. If nobody else wants to hear the full story of how much you’ve suffered or accomplished or been blessed, they will. And better still, they’ll believe it. If they don’t think to ask about it, tell them to sit back and listen up.
3. Stories. They tell stories, thankfully without any point. Stories entertain, teach, and digest better than the lectures others give, full of principles and advice. Theirs is too, but you don’t notice.
4. Solutions. If you don’t want advice about your problems, just ask, but if you do, just state your problem and listen. More often than with others, solutions will be given with no strings attached: they’ll love and respect you all the same if you don’t follow their advice.
5. Authority. Theirs is over your parents’, always was. It doesn’t over-rule. It’s wise enough to overlook and oversee. It’s based on vast experience. It’s like covering yourself on a cold day with a warm blanket. Don’t miss it.
6. Affirmations. Other people, especially peers and parents, tend to focus on what you don’t do well. They focus on your strengths and talents, often seeing what others cannot, and that really feels good.
7. Identity. These affirmations can give you a new view of yourself. They may give you nicknames you love. Compared to being your parents’ child, or even sometimes your lover’s lover, being their grandchild is a whole lot closer to being your own person.
8. Importance. Maybe nothing you’re doing right now is working out very well, or you feel nobody needs you. Well they do, and cheering them up with a call, a card, or best of all a visit, is a home run very time. You are always important to them.
9. Laughter. When everyone else in your life including yourself takes you and life too seriously, try your grandparent. Old people can laugh at themselves and life better than anyone else on earth, and it’s contagious.
10. Role Models. After you’ve listened to their life story enough to where you can tell it yourself, and you do, you will see they may be your best role models, especially for laughing, loving, living simply, aging, dying, relating to God, and for handling pain, loneliness, and adversity.
So remember how to visit your grandparents (or your children’s!): look for the good stuff, and that’s just what you’ll get.