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The Moore Things Change – Grandparents matter

Carl Moore

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A PRECOCIOUS SIX-YEAR-OLD when asked where his grandparents lived, responded in a flash: “At the airport!” He had an explanation at the ready: “We collect them from the airport, and when their visit is over, we take them back to the airport.”
That little tickler might be apocryphal – the type of material that traverses the Internet via email every day. On the other hand, it might well be a real story.
The next few hundred words of this article are very real. They are taken from a recent competition sponsored by the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) in secondary schools and represent the views of a group of Barbadian grandchildren. Unfortunately, only five of 23 schools participated.
The winners of that competition, titled The Role Of Grandparents In My Life, had the golden opportunity of hearing some of the last bits of advice from the late president Kathleen Drayton.
At the awards presentation function on June 12 last year she went to great lengths to stress: “Never stop reading.”I enjoyed the privilege of sitting on a panel of some of the most distinguished educators in Barbados, as well as a fellow newspaper columnist: Dame Patricia Symmonds, Ms Joan Blackett, Mrs Coreen Kennedy – retired principals; Dr Leonard Shorey and Dr Peter Laurie.
As was to be expected, there were some weaknesses, which were pointed out by the chief judge Dame Patricia. I sought BARP’s permission to make an article out of the essays handed in.
The contribution that brought a tear came from 14-year-old Janelle. She captured the beauty of the relationship between her grandpa and grandma, recalling how her grandfather described his first meeting with her grandmother: “She had the most beautiful smile and she was the most amazing woman I ever saw.”
Sadly, one day grandma died. It was the first time Janelle saw her grandpa crying.
She said: “He used to say he was a strong man and he would continue to make it; I knew it was a lie because the only person who made him happy was gone forever.
“On mornings when he got up early I would hear him sobbing and I would try to comfort him. The house will never be the same with grandma gone.
“They taught us how to love one another. The love they showed each other taught me the way to treat others, even if we disagree.” Janelle won a prize in the seniors section.
Therese, the winner among the junior essayists, named her grandparents as her best friends. She credited them with bringing stability to the family.
She testified: “My grandparents are the backbone of my family. They are readily available to take care of me when I fall ill and they provide child care, financial assistance and emotional support. They take on the roles of babysitter, chauffeur and caregiver.”
She termed her grandparents her role models.
Young Pascal turned in a discerning analysis of his paternal grandfather: “He is very religious and often takes me to church, when he tries, in vain, to get me to accept the Bible literally, which I find rather confusing, and we often discuss, dispute and argue about it on the way back.”
All his grandparents shower him with books, ranging from mathematics to chemistry to the teachings of Buddha and Mohammed, among others.
This young man has a wry sense of humour.
About her grandmother’s guava jelly, Saran wrote: “I would walk to mama’s house, smelling her homemade guava jelly a mile away. She is the only person who can produce such a level of delicious, sweet, succulent perfection time and time again, with the same quality.”
Grandparents are still very much appreciated. The 21 participants in BARP’s essay competition made that clear . . . as if the 24 000 BARP members had any doubts about that!
Next time I write, you’ll read excerpts from essays by Danica, Rashida, Elizabeth and Chade.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator.