Aside from Paw Patrol and dinosaurs, the only one thing my eldest son can talk endlessly about is his grandparents. He’ll often tell me of something he wants to share with them the next time he sees them. He’s guaranteed to throw a tantrum whenever we announce we have to head home after a visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. And he loves nothing more than a living room dance party with his Lolo and Lola. My youngest son is only one so he can’t wax lyrical about his grandparents just yet, but he light ups the moment he sees them and enthusiastically has “conversations” with them at every chance. It’s pure, unbridled love and it makes my heart sing whenever I see them together.
I never had the opportunity to meet both my grandmothers, so it was only my grandfathers who were in my life. My family moved from the Philippines to Australia when I was six, which meant that I lived in a different country to both of them from a very young age. Even when we were living in Manila, I remember my sister and I would spend time with both our Lolos but it was never to the extent that my sons are able to with their grandparents. They see them every single week given their grandparents care for them while my husband and I work, so they’re a constant presence in their lives. And therein lies the difference.
My grandfathers and I were unable to share the minutiae of everyday life, like my sons are able to with their grandparents. They didn’t know about the new book I had discovered that week. Or that I’d made a new friend at school. Most of our conversations were done through sporadic phone calls (one of my grandfathers even had to use the next door neighbour’s telephone for a time until he finally decided to have a phone line installed) or the occasional card or letter. We didn’t have FaceTime or emails or all the wonders of technology to help us nurture that bond. More often than not, they would only know how much my sister and I had grown from the pictures my parents would send back to the Philippines.
While making the big trip back to the Motherland every few years gave us the chance to see each other in person, there was never that familiarity that comes from being in someone’s life on a regular basis. There was often that big chasm of distance that can be hard overcome. While to me they were still my grandfathers and I loved them, we found it hard to get into that groove, find that ease where we could just chat without having to get to know each other all over again. Because chatting to the granddaughter that you last saw at the age of six, to the nine-year-old who now stands before you, involves having to bridge several years of huge growth and change.
I wish that they were in my life the same way that my sons have their grandparents in their life.
I wish that they were in my life the same way that my sons have their grandparents in their life. That they were there to watch me as I navigated school or landed my first job or became a mum. But it’s not to say I don’t have fond memories of them growing up. I still remember one of my grandfathers sneaking my sister and I lollies, or one lolo’s dry wit and how much he made us laugh. I was in my 20s when both my grandfathers passed away and I only wish we’d had the opportunity to spend more time together. That I had been able to share the news with them that I was getting married or that I could have proudly introduced them to both their great grandsons.
And this is why I’m so very grateful that my boys have the opportunity I never had to foster a lifelong bond with their grandparents. That they’re able to have that important presence in their life of people who love them dearly, want only the best for them and have all the wisdom of life to share with them as they grow and navigate their own lives. As a parent, it’s also reassuring and comforting to know that they are there, that there are four people in the world who have been there since the day of my sons’ births, who have witnessed their important milestones, and who share equally in the joy of watching them grow and become their own little people. And while my son’s love for his beloved Paw Patrol and dinosaurs will fade over time, I know that what he feels for his grandparents is eternal.
Tania Gomez is a freelance writer and founder of The Editus.