When I married my late-husband, Taylor, I knew I hit the lottery. I was living my fairytale and starting my own family with the love of my life. However, a newlywed couple is never really their own family. Taylor and I always considered ourselves beyond blessed to have such wonderful parents and in-laws, and marrying into Taylor’s family also meant that I got to have grandparents again.
My own grandparents all postponed starting their families when my grandfathers served in WWII. They were not young men then either, but both in their early 30s. My dad’s father served as a surgeon and my mom’s father was initially turned down when he went to enlist after Pearl Harbor because of his age and eye sight. My grandmothers were both much older moms when they welcomed my parents into the world at a time before 40 was the new 30.
By the time I came along, I did not have grandparents who gave piggyback rides or played on the floor with their grandkids. While their age meant less time with them, despite all living into their 90s and one grandfather to 100, I’m grateful for their place in history and the perspective of their age that they all shared with me.
Needless to say, I found it pleasantly unusual after I got married when Taylor. I would see his grandparents at the same social events in town or cheering on his younger cousin at his football games. This was something I never got to experience, seeing grandparents sitting comfortably on the high school bleachers. Grandparents who became my friends who have helped me navigate adult life by offering wisdom and support.
It amazes me that my girls get the experience of knowing their great-grandparents through their father’s side. I have always strived to foster this relationship as much as possible, knowing time with them is a precious gift not everyone gets to experience.
Even if I never had the chance to know my grandparents, I know I wouldn’t be here without their own lives unfolding the way it did. I’m sure they took risks and made sacrifices I will never know about that have impacted my life today. I’m sure the choices of that generation even have an impact on the lives of my own children, people they would never meet.
When our family lost Taylor in February 2020, I saw firsthand how important grandparents are in a family. Our parents have been a huge help with my adjustment to single parenthood over the last 18 months. Not just with the practical things, like babysitting and shuttling to and from school, but in modeling to my children the values by which Taylor and I were raised. For some people, parents might be an example of what not to do with their own children, and that is a lesson also worth valuing.
When my nuclear family was broken apart by tragedy, we gained the joy of living our daily life in a multi-generational family. Being around Taylor’s parents is the closest thing I have to bringing my girls up the way he would have. I sometimes feel guilty when we are with my own dad and they see the father/daughter relationship they will miss. But my children do have a different relationship with their grandparents that most do not.
Although it is unfortunately not my circumstance, I think it is important for my children to observe and view the marriages of their own grandparents as the ideal, committing to a lifetime with your partner and supporting your children no matter what challenges life may bring. I am thankful that even though my children lost their father, they have four extra parents in their lives. Their grandmothers and grandfathers have stepped in so that the void of grief is overshadowed by the love of multiple generations. That is something truly grand!