Family, Michigan

My Grandparents and the Rest of the World

The situation of my grandparents has been swimming in my mind since I arrived home to my mother’s because they now live here. There are the memories of Christmas gatherings as a child growing up and the relationships that have developed from these family gatherings. Then there are the weekend visits every time I return to the states. And finally, there is the current situation of actually living with them. The fantasy of the spoiled grandchild disperses when you realize that your grandparents are real people who have lived through things that you can never dream of. They have seen over seven decades of the world and many births and deaths in that time. Their stories always fell in the background when, as a child, I would head to the kitchen to help with dinner at Thanksgiving, or at Christmas as the wrapping paper flew from newly opened gifts.

It’s not just living with my grandparents that brings a new outlook on who they are as individuals, or even beginning to see them as individuals. It’s also my age and my interest in their history and their life experiences. I take the time to sit on the front porch with them, as they drink their Sherry or Busch, in the evening after dinner. I listen to them playfully bicker, chuckling beneath my breath, imagining how they began 51 years and eight children ago. I ask more questions about my Grandfather’s time in the service so that I can learn something about who he is or was and even gain some knowledge into the Korean War. I ask more questions about what it was like for my Grandmother to grow up without a father in Detroit, helping to raise her younger siblings while her mother (my great-grandmother who is still alive as well) worked in a hospital as a nurse. I want to write all of these stories down. To document them because I know that someday they won’t be there. [My grandfather is continually reminding me of this because I am gone living my life in far off lands.]

I respect my grandparents because of who they are. And I love them tremendously. But I don’t always agree with them. After last night, I would say that I rarely agree with them, especially in regards to race, environment, politics, and probably religion! Sometimes I think that we can enter into discussions covering such topics, and I even look forward to the playful banter that takes place when I visit with my grandfather on one of my summer homecomings. Perhaps because we have been living under the same roof, perhaps because I see them daily, we decided to go a little further with the regular debates last night. At some point we began to bring personal experience into it and I felt we were up against a wall, so I decided to walk away from the argument before it escalated. We just don’t have the same — or even a similar — world view. This is due to so many things. Much of what they have lived through and I have not and vise versa. We grew up in totally different spaces of time. This is reflected in how we view life.

I thought going for a walk would release the tension acquired from our argument, but it didn’t. I know that as much as I can’t understand where they are coming from, they can’t understand me. I felt defeated, it was one of those moments when I felt the world up against me. Because I know the views they carry, are carried by many others in this country and to an extent around the world. As I walked down the dirt road, beneath the golden hues on the tree tops from the setting sun, in the direction of one horse farm after another, my thoughts went beyond discussions and debates with my grandparents.

I had the realization, the answer to my infamous question “Why can’t we all just get along?” Everyone doesn’t see things the same and it’s harder for some to understand how that can work positively. And if everyone sees things in the world differently, then how can we create a compromise when what we see is polar opposite of one another? And the weight of responsibility lies heavy on my mind. I’m really starting to realize how many individuals do not see the necessity to take responsibility for their actions, whether it be smoking and in turn creating second hand smoke, or on a larger scale with corporations failing to follow procedures that protect the environment, because such procedures hurt them economically.

So, perhaps, my new question will be, why don’t people find it important to take responsibility for their actions? All of them.