I’ll have a medical update next week, after I meet with the oncologist. But now I want to focus on Passover. All my children came in, with of course all our grandchildren. It was crowded, hectic, chaotic, a lot of fun and very revealing. Everyone got along and the grandchildren got to know and play with their cousins.
These family times are precious, and too often I think we take these moments for granted. My grandchildren range in age from a few months to ten years old, and that gave me an opportunity to remember how my own children grew and developed. It also gave me an opportunity to see how my children and their spouses are raising their children. In many instances, it seemed they were doing a better job than I did, hopefully taking the best of my parenting and learning from my mistakes. In some instances, I felt like criticizing or explaining a different approach. But I refrained.
Inter-generational interactions, and intra-generational interactions, are very important. In many ways, they provide nourishment to the nuclear family (parents and children). Of course, such family get-togethers are becoming increasingly rare in our increasingly mobile, fractured society, especially ones where the dynamics remain positive, as opposed to the almost cliched arguments, tensions and fights that occur, the dredging up of past wounds and unresolved rivalries.
And our digital age is a two-edged sword, on the one hand, contributing to the factions, distance and lack of communication, superficial, healing or otherwise, and on the other allowing us to stay in touch and connect much more intimately and immediately than ever before. While letters, in-depth and heart-expressive, are still important (and becoming a lost art), the immediacy of email or text, or the visuals of FaceTime or Skype, etc., allows us to communicate, to be part of each other’s lives, to defy distance and dissonance and distractions in ways only imagined before.
Of course, I’m not the first to make these observations, but their power and poignancy struck me deeply over Passover, as I watched and interacted with my children, now grown, and especially my grandchildren, even as I wrestled with my own health and its impact on my future. (As I said, I’m getting stronger and feeling better, but there is still tumor, and therefore uncertainty, that must be dealt with.)
In the face of the inevitable uncertainty of our futures, children, and perhaps especially grandchildren, give us not only a measure of hope, not only a sense of continuity, but a reassurance that our lives have value, meaning and substance. We have not only been a partner in creation, we have revealed something of the Eternal. From generation to generation includes us in a larger community, transforms us into integrated parts of a greater whole.
Whether we play with our grandchildren, or watch them play with each other —indeed, whether we are the uncles and aunts, or even the cousins, that join or extend a family — and as we observe the interaction of the next generation with its own next generation, we participate in a continuity that both emphasizes our moments and broadens our souls. We discover a spiritual rootedness in our physical encounters, elevating the mundane spinning of a toy or reading of a book to an almost sacred experience, like the mystical attachments that arise from the repetitions of prayer.
Driving it all is the simple joy of being — being there and being with. For a grandparent, a young child’s cries for attention, for food, for a diaper, the struggle of growing into one’s self, evokes sympathy, sometimes amusement (the “been there, done that” factor), but always an identification. After all, how much of our identity, of who we are, is defined by our children, and our grandchildren? And as they struggle into competence, we, too, regain our own, finding ourselves renewed, as it were, in their joyful discoveries.
We come together all too briefly and all too infrequently, and even as we maintain contact, interest and involvement, we yearn for the immediacy of a prolonged presence. But every moment is a blessing, and as we, the elder generation, struggle with our own inner conflicts, our own ailments, our own (still) becoming, it is a comfort to have not just the connection, but the relationship with children and grandchildren. A gift from the Almighty, we bless them, but even more, they bless us.
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