Last year, my mother in law died unexpectedly, leaving behind five sons, 13 grandkids ranging in age from 24 years to 9 months old, and a husband suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
It was sad, and continues to be so. They were not the most involved of grandparents — they lived a two-hour drive away and were in their 70s and in less than ideal health by the time my kids came along. But they’re still missed –my daughter talks about her Grandma E on a regular basis — and we are so glad to have the pictures and memories we do have of them with our kids.
Some people don’t have even that. They are, in fact, “parentless parents” — people who are raising kids of their own after their parents have died. Allison Gilbert writes about being one in this Huffington Post blog.
Theres so many things you don’t think about if you are, like me, lucky enough to have both parents alive and well. For example, Gilbert points our, her children have never been to holiday celebrations at her parents’ home, only her in-laws. While her in-laws have been to every birthday party for both her kids and frequently attend their special events, she never got to share those moments with her own parents. It gives her a sense of her family life being out of balance, she writes, and she thinks about the questions she can’t ask her parents about her own childhood, like when she got her first tooth or when her parents let her cry it out. That makes my heart hurt for her a little bit, thinking of how my dad fondly tells me my daughter is exactly like me when it comes to special events or my mom tells me my son looks like me.
Gilbert is conducting a survey for use in a book she’s writing about parentless parents. Surprisingly, Roper, the polling organization she’s working with, tells her the questions she’s asking have never been asked before. Strange, that. I think there’s such a perception that once you have kids you’re too much of an adult yourself to still need your own parents. But any of us who’ve had the joy of watching our little one snuggle with their Papa or giggle at their grandma, not to mention enjoyed a kid-free Saturday night because the grand-p’s offered to take the kids for the night, know that’s not true.
If you’re a parentless parent yourself, hop on over and read Gilberts piece and take her survey if you’re so inclined.