One of the many things we can be proud of in the Philippines is our deep respect for family, and not just the nuclear one. This is why there are very few nursing homes in our country. Families take care of their own, and it is a rare case where grandparents are sent to an assisted living facility when they still have living children, or even extended family.
Notwithstanding your love for your Lolo and Lola, you may feel that we do not need a holiday to celebrate it. After all, there are already far too many commercial and consumer-driven red letter dates, from Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day, to Father’s Day to Easter, to Halloween and Christmas.
In case you are wondering how it all started, we can give the credit to Marian McQuade, a parent from West Virginia, US. She was helping to organize a community affair for the elderly who were 80 years old and older back in the 1950s. Even then, it was common for American families to place their seniors in homes for the aged. As she was planning the event, McQuade made the sad realization that many of the elderly had been forgotten by their families. So she set out to establish a holiday to remember and honor all grandparents. In 1973, West Virginia became the first state to mark the holiday. Five years later, it became an official holiday thanks to a federal proclamation signed by then US President Jimmy Carter. It caught on, mainly because retailers embraced another reason to sell gift items and promoted it heavily. The practice soon spread to other countries, including ours.
While flowers, greeting cards, bakery items and other small tokens will surely bring smiles to the faces of Lolo and Lola, may we suggest other ways that can strengthen your family bond, not just on one day of the year but throughout the year? After all, Lolos and Lolas invested in your parents’ future so they can in turn invest in yours. Time to pay that debt of gratitude, not out of obligation but out of love.
#1 Celebrate Grandparents Day Monthly, not Once a Year.
Our Lolos and Lolas are getting on in years and you can make those years count by consciously spending time with them. Set a date each month for your Grandparents Day, which does not have to put a dent on your wallet. You could have a regular movie date (and if they have a senior citizen’s card – that’s less expense for you) or take them for a drive to their favorite park or old haunts. Maybe you can agree to always try a new restaurant in the neighborhood. Find one thing that you both like and simply enjoy it together.
#2 Offer to be their Designated Driver (or Commuter Helper).
Lolos and Lolas complain that it is harder for them to go to places as they become older. They have aches and pains that do not allow for long walks, or they are not familiar with technology so cannot book a ride using their mobile phones. Plus, the older they are, the harder it is for them to go off on their time. It is safer to go out with a buddy, and with everyone else busy with working and studying, they do not want to impose. So make that generous offer so they can visit their friends, do their errands, consult their doctors – and this would allow you to bond even more.
#3 Go down memory lane together.
There’s no one or no two better to revisit the old photo albums with than your Lolo and Lola. They can share stories behind every photo and you will not only learn more about yourself, but also bring them joy by reminiscing the good old days. Lolos and Lolas are the family historians and you can discover new things about your parents too, and your siblings, and all other relatives. Take the chance to also check on the condition of the albums and how to better care for these so that the next generation can still enjoy them.
#4 Capture new memories to share.
One of the heartwarming stories I came across online about grandparents is how one wrote down notes on the times they spent together for the first five years of his granddaughter’s life and gave these to her as a gift when she turned 16. How about turning the table around and take notes of your time with Lolo and Lola doing #1, #2 and #3? You can do this for a year and give it to them on the next official Grandparents Day. Add photos and other mementos to your notes and get the tissues ready!
#5 They are wise beyond your years, so absorb that too.
When I was working for a bank, I remember my colleagues and I would avoid a former employee who likes to visit. Most of us did not have the chance to work with him, but he would take the time to introduce himself and then launch into a long monologue of his glory days working with the bank. But we were all so busy and wanted to just go back to work, instead of taking time to listen. Once, I was cornered and had no excuse so I resigned myself to being bored to tears – and discovered I was being handed a gift, free history lessons on what worked and did not work in the past, and how I can learn from his mistakes to be a better worker. If you are weighing spending time with Lolo and Lola against watching Netflix, or checking out Facebook and Instagram, or hanging out with friends, I would say pick the first. There will be time to do all the rest but access to the wisdom of Lolo and Lola are sadly on a limited run.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.