One of the biggest pains of growing old isn't a physical one, but that of realizing I can't keep up with my grandchildren. Fortunately I don't fret about having everything perfect when my kids come; they'd know I was faking anyway! They pitch in and clean house and cook, knowing that I won't be insulted if they scrub the kitchen or put together a meal. My grandkids love playing with their cousins, and I sit back and enjoy watching them together. They live so far apart that they usually only see each other once a year. Their bond is amazing.
I was born to "older" parents. My cousins were a generation ahead of me, so their kids were my "real" cousins, and there weren't too many of them. I didn't have much chance to see them, although many lived in the same county, so I don't have many memories of cousin bonds. My grandparents had passed away, so there weren't many family gatherings.
There WAS my mom's family picnic on Memorial Day. We always called it May 30th, because it was on the actual day, not the last Monday of the month. We always gathered at my aunt's house in the town where mom grew up. We picked flowers from our yard, which always had lots of spring blooms, grown especially for that occasion. I still remember the fragrance of the sweet williams and roses in the car as we traveled to the picnic. We were in our best clothes, of course, because it was a special, almost sacred day.
After meeting at my aunt's house, we'd ride to the cemetery to lay our flowers on the graves of my mother's family. The most special grave was that of Mom's brother who had died in World War I. I associate my grandparents with those once-a-year-visited graves. I think that's one reason I especially value my time with my grandchildren; I want them to have memories of me as a living person, not as a name on a tombstone. I don't remember the afternoon picnics with my aunts, uncles, and older cousins nearly as much as my time at those graves.
I regret that I tire so easily and have to rest often when the kids visit. I have a valid excuse for that -- fibromyalgia and some recent surgeries -- but my naps force me to miss valuable time with my grandchildren. Will they remember that I slept a lot, rather than played with them? They play with their cousins so much of our time together; will they know how much pleasure I got from hearing their squeals and laughter?
I want to be able to walk through the woods with the little ones, looking for bugs and slugs, and climbing over fallen logs. I make my way on the uneven ground very slowly, using walking sticks to keep my balance. They tire of waiting for me, I'm sure, so most of their time in the woods is without me. I want to ride on the four-wheeler with them, but my back just won't take it. I'd like to play volleyball with them, but a fall could mean another hospital visit. As I said, not being able to keep up with my grandchildren is a pain. The hugs are wonderful, though, and they don't hurt at all!