I will be forever grateful that my children have known all their grandparents.
They'll remember gardening with Papa and fishing with Grandpa. They'll remember Oney the Scrabble champ and Grandma's incomparable baked beans. They'll remember Papa's colorful rendition of Harvey's Hideout and Grandpa quipping "Gifts are appreciated!" every time they made a wrong move in a chess game. They'll reminisce about Grandma who rode the waves at Hilton Head and took them to the video arcade.
I never knew my grandfathers -- one died before I was born, and one died when I was very young. When my Uncle Jack hit 64 or so, he became the oldest living male Regan. The women had longevity; the men died young. We have modern medicine to thank for the fact that my children continue to build memories with these four special people they call grandparents.
The downside is suffering.
Their grandparents are aging -- facing different maladies, loss of function, cognitive and physical, and it's hard, so very, very hard. Hard on us. Hard on the patient. Hard on the caregiver.
I remember being in a support group meeting many years ago and listening to an elderly friend named Fran describe her last drive. Her sight was failing; her reflexes were compromised. It was time to turn in her keys. She spent the afternoon driving up and down her driveway for several hours. She turned off the car and gave the keys to her daughter.
I was healthy and twenty-something and struck by what a life-changing moment that was for Fran. Our neighborhood has lots of terrific qualities, but you can't walk anywhere from here -- not the store, not the church, not the bank. Fran's wings were clipped.
And this is the path our parents are now on.
God is near to the broken-hearted, and not one bit of our suffering is wasted. And so I am praying for grace -- for frail and failing parents and for their more able-bodied caregivers (who sometimes seem to carry an even greater burden).