Those Amazing Elders

horseheader11.jpgGood Morning!

A good friend of mine — Janet Elaine Smith — was telling me about her awesome experience this past weekend — she visited an older folks home and spent some wonderful time with the folks there.  She had a blast, and we talked a bit about how we both believed that where possible, one’s elders should remain with the family instead of being sent to a home.  While we both realize it’s not always possible, I started thinking about this in terms of Native America.

In Native American cultures, one’s elders held a special place within the tribe.img_43141 This picture by the way is Grandfather George.  George is a Native American actor who lives with my husband and myself.  He’s not really related to either of us, although we have adopted him into the family.  At dinner time he regales us with stories of old and keeps us entertained with his knowledge.  He also is an excellent gardener by trade — and he took on the responsibility of own lawn and keeping it pretty without either of us saying a word.

Elders in Native American culture are revered.  Their counsel is listened to with close attention and they hold a special place in the hearts of everyone in the tribe.

Before we had the advent of public education — where children are around other children their own age for much of the day — children were taught at home.  Mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers had the responsibility for seeing to the education of the young ones.phot0194 The wonderful part of this is that one’s elders became the role models for the children — instead of other children becoming the role models (sort of like the blind leading the blind) — thus the children had the experience of a life’s worth of living to draw upon.  In Native American one’s elders were held in such esteem that sometimes a youngster would seldom speak.  And like storytellers of old, an elder was always welcome into the circle.

This is a picture, by the way of my husband and myself with my mother-in-law, Joyce.

img_4284Here’s another picture of Grandfather George.  Now, most people grow up with elders all around them.  Grandparents, church officials, etc., can make up that community.  When I was growing up, my one grandparent on my father’s side had already passed away and my grandmother on that side was soon sent to an old folk’s home and so I didn’t know them.  My grandparents on the other side of my family also had one death long before I came around in the family — but they lived so far away that I didn’t know them. However, I soon found that is was wonderful to befriend the neighbors.  I think I spent most of my summers in the front yard of my neighbor directly across the street from me (me and every single kid in the block) — he was like the grandfather that I never had — Hurbert was his name.  And then there was Mr. May, who lived next door to us.  I especially got to know him and his wife well because there was a fire in their house and so they lived with my family while their house was being fixed.  Remember those old days when neighbors helped each other just for the fun of it?

phot0178From Mr. May came the name that sticks with me to this very day — “Cookie” — cause I loved and still do love cookies.  Every day when I’d come home from school, he’d have a package of cookies waiting for me.  Even when the May’s eventually moved out of our house, Mr. May still brought me cookies often.

I think that children should have many different ages to observe and come to know well when they are growing up, and I think the value of our elders is beyond compare.  Wisdom, experience, stories, helpfulness — their willingness to help the young can’t be overstated.  When my children were growing up, they didn’t have the wealth of a great deal of grandparents around them.  On my own side of the family, there were no grandparents who were still alive, and on my ex’s side of the family, his parents tended to distance themselves from the children to a greater or lesser degree.montana-vacation-071

So tell me what do you think?  Have we lost some of the best that we have in sacrifice to our modern technological age?  Personally, I’d be willing to have a little less technology and a little more of the human relationships.  Do any of you remember the age when television hadn’t yet taken hold of the American public — when people still visited each other and went to their houses to talk and visit instead of turn on the TV?  I remember it well — and perhaps that’s the gift of our elderly.  Reminding us of our history — sharing with us their wisdom in situations in life —  their experience.  There is no substitute.  As we all know, history can be rewritten and often is — but if one has a grandparent and pays attention, one can know what really happened.

So tell me — who have you loved (who is elderly) the most in your life?  And would you be willing to give up a little technology for the gift of more nurturing relationships?

Come on in and let’s have a chat.  : )

51obnqdgasl_sl500_aa240_11Remember, too, that Black Eagle is still on sale at bookstores everywhere.  Pick up your copy today.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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30 thoughts on “Those Amazing Elders”

  1. Hi Kay, what a thought-provoking post! My hero is my gramma who has been a terrific influence on me.
    She raised six kids in the Great Depression and knew how to make anything out of nothing. She never visited anybody empty-handed, always brought a pie or a ham or her terrific baked beans, and she never said a mean thing about anybody. No matter how much they deserved it 🙂

    I wish I could say I took totally after her 🙁 Sadly, she died when I was a newlywed, and I still miss her.

    I’m rather ashamed to say I love most of the conveniences of modern technology, but a big part of me does long for simpler times.


  2. Hi Kay! I was blessed to know both my grandmothers. On my father’s side, Nana Bylin encouraged me to read by giving me a book every Sunday. Thanks to her, I had the entire set of Black Stallion books and two shelves full of Nancy Drew.

    My maternal grandmother lived close by until I was eleven or so. She moved three hundred miles away, but we kept in touch with letters. I wrote pages and pages to her. She often talked about writing out the Vickers family history. She never did, but I wish she had. When she visited, we’d play Scrabble. She loved words and puzzles as much as I do, but the best part of those games was just being together.

    My next book (Kansas Courtship, March 2010) is dedicated to these two wonderful women.

    I’m with you on wanting more family time in place of technology. I love email, though. It’s good for sending pictures

  3. I was very fortunate to have both my grandmothers well into adulthood. My father’s mother was a teacher, and she passed on her love of books. My mother’s mother, who was widowed very young, ran a flower shop. I sometimes worked with her in the summer. I remember the bliss of stepping into the fragrance of the flower cooler on a hot summer day. I borrowed my pen name, Jennie Marsland, from her.
    My father’s father was alive in my childhood, and I loved listening to his stories of growing up in a lumber camp. My grandparents gave me roots and a sense of family history for which I will always be grateful.

  4. I had several elders in my life who had aspecial piece,my Moms granddad,My great grandfather,he loved it when I called an talked to him,an expected me too,an my Moms Dad,I called him PAP,he was a fiesty little old man,who colored his dark hair until he died,he liked to dance an sing an just was a bundle of engergy,I miss them both ,an my daughter had the same type of relationship with my Dad,who has now passed also,an she has so many precious memories,an now Im a grandmother to 5,so Im trying to have nice memories with my grandchildren so they will be able to talk fondly of me when im gone

  5. Thanks so much for the mention of my fun experience at the nursing home last Sunday, Karen.
    I was blessed to know all of my grandparents except my mother’s mother. I also had a very special connection with my maternal great-grandmother Bowen. She was Irish. We all knew she was Irish. She regaled us for hours about life “across the pond, in the land of the green and the leprechauns.” She lived to 98, never having been sick a day in her life. She was killed in a head-on collision by a drunk driver. Sad? Not in my mind. She had been visiting relatives in WI with her daughter and son-in-law. It was late Oct. and she was sitting in the back seat, too tiny to see out the front window. They were discussing what a perfect day it had been. My mother had a fit because they set her funeral for my birthday–Oct. 20. I was in high school. To me it was so fitting that our connection should continue on, even to the day of her burial. It was years later, after I started studying her personal scrapbook that she willed to me, that I discovered that she was Irish, but she had never seen the shores of her “adopted homeland.” She was born in Rossi, NY! Further genealogical digging revealed that it was her great-grandfather who actually came to America from Ireland.
    Like Patrick O’Mally (from my Patrick and Grace Mysteries) says, “Once you’re Irish, you’re always Irish!”

  6. Amen, Kay! I was fortunate to have all four of my grandparents in my life for many years. In fact, my maternal grandmother is 96 and still kicking. I used to pester them constantly for stories of when they grew up.

    My family has always spent time around the kitchen table, talking and sharing. And I never feel more blessed than when I have the opportunity to talk with some of the elder members of my church.

  7. Up until the age of five, I had my mother’s parents,plus my great-grandmother. But then we lost Grannie and then my papa with in 6 months of each other. So for me it was just my Nana, who I adored and we had a special bond until she died just before her 85th birthday.. She loved having all her family together when ever she could. All of her childeren, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-granchildren loved her so much. She was once dubbed the Queen Mom and it always stayed with her.. And that is the way she was always thought of a being the family Monarch..

    I miss her so much.

  8. Hi Kay, loved your blog today. I never knew my grandparents very well. The ones on my mother’s side died before I was born and my dad’s parents lived so far away from us so I didn’t see them very often. I’ve really regretted not having grandparents close by. Like you, I love spending time with elderly people. They’re so interesting and always have a million stories.

    I grew up without a T.V. and had the best childhood imaginable. My younger sister and I used our vivid imaginations to entertain ourselves. We played paper dolls and jacks and all sorts of games when it was too hot to go outside. But that’s not to say that we didn’t go outdoors. We played a lot with our neighbor’s three girls. We climbed trees and rode bikes and all sorts of things. I sure miss those days. Wish my grandkids used their imaginations a lot more than they do. They’re missing out on something special.

  9. Wonderful blog, Kay–and I grew up in a mountain valley where we couldn’t get a TV signal until I was in high school. Didn’t miss a thing.
    I was lucky enough to have all my grandparents close by until I was 21. Then they all passed away in the next four years. But what a blessing to have known them. After my mother passed away and Dad became too ill to stay alone or with one of the family, we had to put him in an assisted living facility. I took a job there as a receptionist just to be near him. I came to love the old people in that place. I learned from them every day.
    Your Grandpa George is beautiful.

  10. I read your wonderful blog. The grandfather gentleman you speak of has been to many of the same auditions as I have over the years, and I am glad he is still with us. He has earned the respect of many of his peers, and deservedly so. Our people have always considered our elders keepers of the “Wintercount”, and the storytellers and teachers of our lives and history. Thank you for your recognition of one of our most sacred, our elders. In spirit,

  11. Hi Kay,
    Oh, this is such a lovely post. I often think we don’t give enough respect to our elders and their wisdom. It seems they get cast aside because of their age. We have lovely neighbors who are in the eighties and they have traveled the world. The have adopted our entire street and we all love them and enjoy hearing of their escapades in so many countries.

    I enjoy being around older people. How sweet is Grandfather George with his kind face. Thanks for a thoughtful post today!

  12. Oh, Tanya, I so love that you had her to inspire you. I love stories like this.

    I, too, like technology, but I do think I like human relationships a little more — so much so, I’d be willing to forego a few of our pleasures for more time with those we love.

    I missed my grandparents — I try to make up for it, though. 🙂

  13. Hi Vickie!

    I know — what would most of us do without email and such? And yet we managed just fine before it — I remember it well, actually. And there was more personal time instead of cyber time. 🙂

    This is so wonderful that you had your grandparent so close to hand. I did, truly, miss that.

  14. Hi Jeannie!

    Wonderful post. I think you were lucky to have your grandparents living so close-by to you. They add so much dimension to one’s life.

    And I love your pen name, too. 🙂

  15. Hi Vickie,

    What beautiful stories. It wasn’t until I got older that I really realized what I had missed. Luckily, I had neighbors who were willing to step in and act the part. 🙂

  16. Oh, Janet, what a lovely story. You are such a wonderful story teller. Made me feel like I was right there with you with your grandmother.

    My mother also had a secret — and it was her age — we never knew until she died what her actual age was — she never told us it true — always about 4 – 5 years younger than she was.

    I carry on this tradition by never telling my age. And if pressed, I lie. 🙂

  17. Ah, Tracy, what a lovely post. I’m with you. I’d give up alot of this technology for more time with those we love.

    What do I need a dishwasher for — and AC (except on terribly hot days) — we never had this when I was growing up and we managed. And I never watch TV — my own silent protest against its propaganda — seldom even go to movies.

    So these stories around the dinner table with Grandfather George (who is 89) — are precious.

  18. Hi Linda!

    Interesting, my childhood sounds very similar to yours. We had TV but seldom watched it — it hadn’t become the ALL POWERFUL yet. We played games and jacks and paperdolls and climbed trees and rode bikes — everywhere — we rode bikes everywhere. We swam in the summer almost everyday.

    I didn’t have my grandparents with me, but we did have quality time, anyway. 🙂

  19. Hi Elizabeth!

    Yes, it seems to me that lack of TV builds imagination. 🙂 What a wonderful story about your grandparents and how wonderful that you took a job at the assisted living place just so you could be around him. That’s quite kind of you as well a responsible. 🙂

    Thanks Elizabeth!

  20. Hi Sonny!

    Your post brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful that you know Grandfather George, too. He’s quite an actor, isn’t it? And a wonderful “grandfather.”

    Yes, our elders are precious, precious beings. May it always be so.

    Thanks for your inspiring words.

  21. Good Morning, Charlene,

    This is wonderful that you live so close to those who can share their wisdom and advenatures.

    Yes, I truly think we should give more credit to our elders, who give us so much. If we all had to experience everything without being told what’s what — we wouldn’t have much time for anything else.

    May we always respect those who have lived to pass along their spirit of living and adventure.

  22. Wonderful post. I really wish I had been born back in the day. One of my biggest regrets is having my children later in life. I had one grandmother live with us and a grandfather and grandmother who lived not too far away. My children have really only known my mother who is going to be 88 next week. I love hearing my mom’s stories of how they visited relatives all winter because they were farmers and in the summer they had the visitors. My dad was an only child and lost his father young and my husband is an only child and they lived very far away and passed right after I had my children. I do think people are worse off for not being around family more. A not so great sign of the times I guess.

  23. Lovely post.
    I was lucky enough to grow up with all four grandparents and a great-grandmother all living in the same town. There were great- aunts and uncles also. I spent many days with my grandparents and spent days at a time with one of my aunts. My mother’s family especially was large – 9 children and I lost count of my cousins at 65. There were many weekends when we had 15 children at our house, many overnight.

    That closeness has pretty much been lost. My children have not grown up with that . We were a military family and although lucky enough to live near home for 7 years, it was when the children were very young. My mother and my husband’s father died before we got married. They had two great-grandmothers, but again, only saw them infrequently. My grandmother lived with one of here daughter’s families until she passed away. My other grandmother lived on her own until the end. My mother-in-law unfortunately had Alzheimer’s and died in a nursing home. My dad is in a senior apartment complex and happy. We have offered him and had offered my mother-in-law a place to live, but we live too far from them. They didn’t want to leave their friends.

    On our recent trip north for a high school reunion, we took our 11 year grandson. Except for my Dad, he hadn’t met anyone up there. My Dad babysat one evening and my youngest brother took car of him another evening. He keeps saying how nice Great-grandpa was and how much fun he had. He has such a limited family here, he is missing so much. He is the only grandchild and has no cousins. A definite loss for him.

    We have been involved with seniors everywhere we have lived. They are a resource that should not be overlooked by any community. They have so much to offer. Our children have had a variety of “adopted” grandparents, aunts and uncles.

  24. Wonderful blog! I think that we have lost much in this day of fast living, including the time shred with the elders in our families. Modern medicine has allowed us to live longer but not always in perfect health. I would much rather have my Mother in law and my father living with us but in order to pay for my own medical concerns I must continue working. They are cared for by loving caregivers and we see them at least twice a week.

  25. Hi Jeanne!

    My mom had me late in life, which accounts for why I didn’t have more grandparents around me when I was growing up. Like you, however, I think that relationships are more important than technology — and unless that technology makes more relationships better, it’s not a good technology in my estimation. 🙂

  26. Hi Patricia!

    It’s great to see that you were surrounded by cousins and family. I must admit that I wasn’t and I do think it was something that I missed. However, I do remember spending time with my uncle and his wife — sometimes for a week at a time. I always enjoyed that time away from home, I must admit.

    Sounds like a wonderful family, Patricia!

  27. Hi Connie!

    Like you I think we have lost something in the fast age in which we live. That’s interesting that you point out that we might live longer,but the quality of life may not allow it to be lived in good health.

    Some of those statistics of old — where they average out the length of life — are not completely giving a true picture. It also takes into account many of the children who died of childhood diseases and when avereaged out, makes the statistic look like people didn’t live long, when in fact the opposite was true.

    Those who did live, unless killed in war or some other accident, usually lived to grand old ages and in good health. Was reading up on this recently in a book about groups of people who live on the average over a hundred.

    Anyway, I think it’s wonderful that you see your father and mother in law twice a week. That’s so well done, Connie.

    Thanks so much for your comments.

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