I never knew my grandfathers. Both had been dead for several years by the time I was born. My grandmothers were both gone before I was six. Of all my aunts and uncles, only two remain. My parents are both dead now. I had only one (half-) brother, and he’s now been gone for more than a year. My mother-in-law passed away on 6 April of this year. “Sometimes,” in the words of the old spiritual, “I feel like a fatherless child.”
A word of unsought-for advice directed to those who still have living grandparents and/or parents: Treasure them. Spend time with them. If possible, record them. You may think you already know a lot about their biographies, and perhaps you do. But, when they’re no longer available, you’ll realize that there are large gaps in what you know about them, and that the chronological sequence is unclear. You’ll be going through photographs of people who were clearly important to your parents, but you won’t know who they are, because the photos are unlabeled. (Take care of that now, if you have the chance.) You’ll think of a host of questions you want to ask them, but they won’t be there to answer. If you can, encourage them to write their own life stories.
Let them know that you love them. (If necessary, try to love them. At least, try to understand them.)
Don’t assume that you have lots and lots of time. You might. You might not. But things happen. Sometimes suddenly. And, even if there’s a gradual decline, when bodies begin to give out and memories begin to cloud it will be too late for many things that you intended to do. Do them now.
I wish everyone out there a very happy Fathers Day.