“Give your grandparents a call. They’d love to hear from you.”
“Yep, I will!”I vowed before rushing to end the call with my mom. I felt guilty, as I always did when she felt compelled to remind me that my grandparents still existed.
Based on my previous track record, she knew I wouldn’t call, but she felt an urge to give me a gentle nudge anyway.
I don’t do gentle nudges. I respond better to blunt, in-your-face, smack-you-awake tough love. “Call your grandparents you ungrateful, self-centered heifer!” is the sort of tongue lashing that gets my attention.
If only they could text, it would be so much easier! I thought. Expecting my grandparents to text was unrealistic and honestly, completely unfair.
“Hey grandma, I know you can barely figure out how to turn on the computer, but if you could learn how to operate a smartphone to text me because I’m too lazy to call you, that’d be great!” Seems reasonable.
As we grow older and get into the daily intricacies of our own lives, it’s easy to forget about our grandparents and older relatives.
But we can do better, and here’s why we must.
Staying in touch sprinkles little bits of joy into their lives
According to the American Psychological Association, a few of the factors which contribute to depression in elderly adults are the loss of family & friends and feelings of loneliness.
As someone who has experienced chronic depression for many years of my life, I would like to think I could ease the feeling of loneliness in others, especially my own grandparents, by simply reaching out on a consistent basis to check-in and hear about their day. If nothing else, to let them know they’re in my thoughts.
It seems like such a simple task, yet not something I do nearly enough.
Whenever call my grandparents, I’m often met with a weary hello on the other end.
Once they recognize my voice, there’s an instant, tangible perkiness. At the end of each call, they’ll always remark on how pleasant it was to hear for me. The “I love you’s” which were scarce growing up, have become a normal addition to our parting words. It gives me chills because I know it isn’t just an uttered phrase, but an authentic heartfelt sentiment.
I’m willing to bet when you call your grandparents, whether they are emotionally transparent or not, they enjoy hearing from you. Guaranteed.
Your sporadic phone call becomes a delicious treat in their unstimulating, stale afternoon.
Consistent contact dissolves the cloud of guilt
It’s easy (and perfectly normal) to feel guilty for not staying touch, particularly when we don’t have a justifiable reason for our absence.
In fact, this guilt might actually result in us waiting even longer to call because we have a sense of shame. Even so, you need to find some way to move past it. You can’t correct a bad decision by refusing to change your course.
The guilt was immense, and it was entirely self-inflicted. I could do better, but every day I didn’t call, I continued to make a conscious choice to ignore my grandparents.
When my PaPa picks up the phone and realizes that it’s me, he will sometimes jokingly ask “What’s your name again?” before laughing it off and quickly changing subjects. Though it’s never his intention, I feel horrible.
At some point in the conversation, as he always does, my PaPa will say, “You sure look pretty today!” Although I live in Seattle and he’s over 1500 miles away in St. Louis, he never fails to tell me how darling I am on that particular day.
Don’t let guilt prevent you from making a decision that will not only relieve you from carrying such a heavy burden, it will also make your grandparent’s day lighter and joyful. Don’t fret over how long it’s been, just make a choice to do better going forward. Chances are, your grandparents will extend you a bit of grace.
Calling strengthens your connection
If it’s been several months (or longer) since your last conversation with your grandparents, there’s a high probability they have several stories or thoughts they want to share with you!
Whether it’s a story about their friends, something funny they watched on TV, or to complain about your PaPa’s snoring, use these tidbits as a bridge to build a connection.
My grandma loves watching Judge Judy and Jerry Springer, and it cracks me up to hear her perspective on a love triangle gone awry. You might be surprised to learn your grandparents are up-to-date on current events more than you thought.
Every phone call has the potential to be their final call
If you don’t pay attention to anything else I’ve written, please remember this. I almost learned the hard way.
Both of my paternal grandparents passed away 3 and 8 years ago, however, my maternal grandparents are still alive today at the ages of 89 and 91.
Despite how closely connected I’d been with my paternal Grandma Lou throughout my life, I struggled with keeping in regular contact with her as I became an adult. I probably talked to her over the phone once every 2-3 months.
I remember calling her on Mother’s Day in 2014. We spoke for about 30 minutes and discussed our usual topics about her aching body, and somehow we’d always ended up with her advising me to never get married because a man will be a constant thorn in your side. Ha!
At the end of the conversation, we said our I Love You’s and I told her I’d be in touch again soon.
7 days later my phone rang at 2 AM. It was my cousin letting me know that my Grandma Lou had passed in her sleep. I was wrecked.
It pains me to say this to myself (and you), but I know if it hadn’t been for that Mother’s Day phone call a week prior, I probably would not have called her at all. I would have been left with the regret of not speaking to her before she passed. Instead, my last memory of my grandma is hearing that she loved me.
But it wasn’t because of my doing, I just happened to get lucky that she died so close to a holiday that required a phone call.
You never know if your previous phone call with your grandparents will be their last. Call them.
Easy Ways to Make Time
- When the thought pops up, make the call. There’s no time like the present.
- Call whenever you’re stuck in traffic or on a long commute. You’ll have nothing else to do anyway.
- Make a ritual of calling whenever you’re doing a certain task so that it becomes part of your routine. Example: Call during your weekend morning coffee.
- Set up a reminder on your phone to call every 2 weeks.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a phone call to make.
This post was proofread by Grammarly