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Growing up with my Grandparents

By: Nicole Bornstein  

As I sit down to write, it has been 10 years since my grandparents moved out of my parent’s house and five years since their death. Despite the time that has passed, the memories I have of them and the life lessons I learned from them remain as clear and vivid today as they ever have been. 

When I was five years old, my parents went away on vacation and left me with my Bobby and Zaidy. There are many things I remember about being there, like the best macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted, using old yartzheit candle glasses as drinking glasses, and the lifetime supply of Hershey’s chocolate bars that were stashed away in the refrigerator. I will never forget that feeling of getting whatever I wanted, when I wanted it – what kid doesn’t love being spoiled. One day during my two-week stay, I asked my Bobby to take me to the park. In my mind, she was going to take me to the park where my Grandma always took me. I absolutely loved that park – the colorful slides and monkey bars coupled with the beautiful landscaping, it was one of my favorite places to be. My Bobby, however, brought me to a different park – one not as aesthetically pleasing, and therefore in the eyes of a five year old, not as fun. In typical five year old fashion, I threw a tantrum which led to my 75 year old grandmother walking me two miles to the park that I wanted to go to. This story typifies the type of people my Bobby and Zaidy were; they did whatever they could to make their children and grandchildren happy.

So you can understand how elated I was, when at ten years old, I found out that my Bobby and Zaidy would be moving in with us – constant spoiling. I knew that Bobby was sick and coming to our house straight from the hospital, but I didn’t fully understand how things change when elderly people get sick. Prior to moving into our house, my parents did whatever they could to help my grandparents live independently at home; every Sunday they would go visit with groceries and prepared food for the week and would help them set up their medicine boxes. When weeks would go by and the food would remain untouched, it became clear that my Bobby and Zaidy could no longer take sufficient care of themselves on their own.

Was it difficult, at ten years old, to essentially have another set of parents move in to your house? Undeniably, the answer is yes. Did it impact on my social life at home? Yes, I always hesitated to invite friends over as I was unsure how my grandparents would be feeling and acting on that specific day. However, Did I learn really important lessons during the five years that I did have two sets of parents? That also would be an undeniable yes. Like what?

I got to see the loving relationship my grandparents had for each other. One day, I came home from school to find my grandmother had fallen and being over 90 years old, my grandfather was too frail to help her up. The sight I saw when I came home was unfortunate, yet beautiful at the same time. Despite his limitations, my grandfather had brought to my grandmother pillows and blankets so that she should be as comfortable as she possibly could, and he spent the day sitting on a chair right next to her. 

I got to see firsthand what it really means to have Kibud Av Va’em. The sacrifices that both of my parents made are too great to even begin to write. 

And I got to understand that every single situation has to be dealt with differently. While it was appropriate for my grandparents to move in with our family at the time they did, even though it was one of the most difficult decisions that my father ever had to make, there came a time when they were no longer able to receive the level of care they needed to survive in our home. After five years of living with us, it became evident that my grandparents needed 24 hour care. Everyone has choices to make in life, and every choice we make at every juncture has repercussions. Not every situation is right for every individual. When my grandparents were living in their home with minimal care, that was right for them, when they moved into our house – that was right for them. But that was not right forever. They moved into a nursing home, received the appropriate level of care, and Thank G-d lived in additional 5 years in the nursing home. Can I say for sure they would not have lived those 5 years had they stayed in our home? No. But would they have enjoyed the same quality of life? The answer to that is also No.

It is important for parents who are considering bringing their own parents into their home for care to understand the effects this decision will have on everyone involved: their parents, marriage, and children. It is important for children whose grandparents move in with them to understand that while it may be difficult and at many times unwanted, that there is something to learn from every situation in life.  

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