Saturday, March 13, 2010

Families

Today is the 20th anniversary of Grandma Devins' death. I think of her every day and realize that she really does live on in me. She taught me many things and the decisions I make, the things I say, the hobbies I enjoy are greatly influenced by her example.

Years ago my aunt dropped by to see Grandma and I said to her, "Do you ever look tired!" Grandma gently scolded me later and told me that my comment made my aunt visibly sag and even look more fatigued. I never forgot that and usually try to say things which are positive and uplifting.

Today is rainy and cold so I cleaned out a drawer. Grandma always said she was never bored and if there was nothing else to do, there was always a drawer to tidy. I found this picture of her taken in June 1899 when she was three years old.

Families are so important yet their influence is declining in Western nations. Birth rates have dropped precipitously since I was born, marriage is delayed and relationships are often casual and transitory. Children may have many blendings of siblings, grandparent figures and extended family as their parents move from relationship to relationship. I see elderly people at work who are lonely at the end of their lives as their families are separated by distance or are too busy to visit and assist with their care. Families are multi-generational units which work best when they are together.

Other cultures have maintained much stronger family ties (for now). I rarely see elderly parents of immigrant families waiting for nursing homes as their cultural norm is to care for their parents. I receive forwarded emails warning that Europe will be overtaken by Muslims in the next couple of decades. The truth is, European birthrates are low, Muslims have strong families and higher birthrates so their population will increase. The same is true in Canada where immigration is necessary to maintain our population.

Various pictures of four generations of my family including Grandma

I am not being critical of people placing parents in nursing homes, nor of increased immigration and a multi-cultural society. Our own family is not increasing exponentially, in fact its members are decreasing in number with each generation. One of my friends told me she is worried about being alone in her old age. She is far from her birth family, has no children or extended family, and has had a succession of failed relationships. Right now a career is keeping her occupied but what will happen if she becomes ill?

Moral, cultural and spiritual absolutes are dissolving. Some would argue that this is a good thing, but in my opinion, the erosion of the family unit is damaging and costly to society. Generations to come will be affected by decisions we make now. I am thankful for those in past generations who invested in my life and influenced me to be who I am today.

(Click image to enlarge)

12 comments:

  1. Your remembrances about your Grandmother, Ruth, were very heart warming. I too, learned so much from my Granny Ellen Fellingham, who lived with us for eight years. Awesome memories. Granny passed in 1969, just 5 months before Dan's and my wedding. I think of her (almost) every day, and pray I can be a wonderful memory to my Grandkids, like Granny is to me. I count it a privilege to be called "Granny." Thank you for sharing!

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  2. Thanks Ruth for commenting and sharing about your Granny. I know you are a loving grandmother and a very welcoming mother-in-law. Families will have differences, but it is important to be loving and supportive of each other.

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  3. While I agree with your observations about the role of families changing, there are at least two things that give me encouragement.
    First, families are now being redefined in ways they would not have been thought of 100 years ago--the novel The Secret Life of Bees was a marvelous portrait of a blending of people who became family. I have an aunt, who never married, yet she has a "family" in neighbors of multiple generations.
    Second, for some people growing old alone, belonging to a caring church (or some other such group) is a way to make family.
    I think I would have liked your grandma--the cleaning out drawer thing...oh, that rings true.

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  4. Donna- I agree that friends, extended family, or church connections can create a supportive family unit for those without children or spouses. I think that is one role of the church. But I do see younger people who do not realize the importance of making a lasting connection somewhere. Blended families can work, but can require extra effort to succeed. I read the Secret Life of Bees too.

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  5. I like hearing stories of other peoples "granny's". They are so special in the lives of children and as a child becomes an adult.

    Oh, and Ruth, don't worry about me not pulling my weight of populating Canada...I am doing my part so far! heheh

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  6. I'm glad we moved to be near family. Being with the grands has been grand.

    As for fertility rates, it's pretty well the experience that everybody's comes down in the face of modern reality. Europe's big concern may be negative population growth -- something we're not used to.

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  7. Mexico Mom11:21 am GMT-4

    Thank you for the beautiful memories of Mother. You were always so special to her and I know she rejoices with us of your love and concern to others.
    Blessings to all of you.

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  8. I love your new blog look!
    And I like stories about grannys too! And family. And the pics, especially multigenerational ones!

    Re the comment about looking tired. I have done the same thing. Just the other day I said to my daughter's mother-in-law, "you look tired" and she immediately snapped her head around and retorted "no I don't".
    Gee, I thought I was being sympathetic or compassionate, but not to her. So your grandmother's lesson is reinforcing this for me. And it does make good sense, to say something positive to someone.

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  9. Oh, I like the secret lives of bees too!

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  10. AC- I admire the way you and Cuppa are helping raise the grands.

    Holly- You are doing your part for sure! Hope to see you tomorrow

    Mom- I cannot believe she has been gone 20 years.

    Wendy- Our words do have such an impact and innocent comments can be taken the wrong way. I added a link to the new blogger templates.

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  11. Lovely post, Ruth. I will never again moan about attending our family reunions. You are so correct that family is terribly important.

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  12. So much truth here Ruth. We have become such a mobile society, and we've also become an economy where it is a requirement for two incomes many times, thus making it difficult for families to have these options. We pay others to take care of our children in day care, and we pay others to take care of our elderly. There is a disconnect of the importance of family ties.

    What a lovely remembrance of your grandmother and the lessons she taught you.

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