Family Matters

Not to get too melancholy, and perhaps it’s because June 5th would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday (she lived to 97), but every day walking down the street I see old people helping each other totter to the store or cafe, or just a bench. They have canes and lean on each other. But I also see a lot of people helping their parents and grandparents. Here you see grandparents caring for small children. And not just grandmothers. Grandfathers seem to be very involved with their grand children, interacting with them and actively engaged.

All of this is a little foreign to us. Neither of us were raised in multi-generational households. Sure, our grandparents might have lived in a nearby city, but they didn’t live in the same building on the same floor – or at the furthest, a few floors away. In speaking to our lawyer about it he said this was the normal way of living,  he couldn’t imagine moving so far away from family like we were doing. It isn’t in any part of their comprehension of what life should be like.

In viewing the fiestas and different mini-celebrations, all of them include people from kindergarten to very, very old. The culture here doesn’t seem to worship youth like we do in the US. Irrelevancy when the age of 40 is reached. Everyone seems to have a role that is equally important until they die. It’s not flashy but its quietly dependable.

The other day, I was heading somewhere and a young man, maybe in his late teens or early 20’s, was walking with his grandmother on his arm.  She looked like an apple doll. He was very handsome and she was clearly proud of the admiring looks he brought their way. I smiled, thinking how wonderful it was that he seemed so happy to walk at her snails pace. He didn’t get frustrated or try to rush her. She set the meters-per-hour in which they would process.

I wonder what our lives would be like in the US if this were the norm. What would happen if we lived like they do here and saw our families more as partners than burdens? I’m not pointing fingers here. I’ve lived very far away from my family, in other states, since I was 23 – much longer than I ever lived near them. But that is what everyone I knew did. Aspiring to go out into the world and make my fortune – looking for career fulfillment.

But now, I’m on the other side of all that. My kids are pretty independent and it’s normal in the US, not to live in the same state as your kids. I never expected my children would want to live within 100 miles of me. But sometimes I look at my neighbors here in Valencia, sitting on the benches with their grandchildren outside our building, and I think now nice it is that they’re all together, supporting each other. And teenagers actually seem to spend time with their parents and grandparents.

Perhaps the Old World has something on the New World. Maybe, while we were busy inventing the concept of individualism, the people here decided that they had it figured out – Thank You very much. I do know that the grandma seemed very happy with the set-up, as her handsome, patient grandson escorted her down the sidewalk. If I could bottle the way they looked at each other and send it back home, I would make millions. On second thought, it was priceless.

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