How Do You Honor Your Elders?

gram94Yesterday, a wonderful, graceful woman turned 94 years old. She is a mother of eleven, grandmother to 18 and great-grandmother to as many. She has been a widow for over 22 years, and had the misfortune of burying a son, a grandson, both her parents, and both her brother and sister. Last April, a stroke took away her ability to speak, but not her human dignity, grace, strength or her spirit. She is a tough old bird, that lady. She is my grandma, Beatrice Evelyn (Bowen) Law. If I ever display half of her strength and grace, I will be a great woman!

Yesterday was also the birthday of my daughter, Nadine, who turned thirteen. I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with her at her school, Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA. What a fabulous town with an even more fantastic story. I will share it sometime. Nadine is so young and innocent, so smart and so much of life lies ahead. What a contrast, one might think. Nadine is so full of the vibrancy of youth, yet she also displays some form of grace and strength. Could this possibly have passed through me? I truly hope so!

Yesterday was a pretty special day in my family, to which I thought every person must relate. It got me to thinking, how do other cultures honor their elders?

What does your family do to celebrate birthdays, particularly of the elderly? Traditionally, my family will visit the person at their home (hopefully) and share some quiet time visiting or share a small dish of dessert. My grandma lives on a farm and there is always lots of food around! We usually have cake, but there is always some sort of baked good, and ice cream. My gram’s favorites are coffee and maple walnut, so I brought a container of each, some homemade blonde brownies and some “box” dark chocolate ones, along with a tossed salad and homemade shephard’s pie.

All of my grandmother’s living children visited her on her actual birthday, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as friends and neighbors stopped by to give their best too! Can you imagine living 94 years? My gram was 9 years old when the stock market crashed. My grandparents were married and had two children already when my grampa signed up for WWII with his brother. Thankfully, both returned to have big families, but what they say is true: that is the greatest generation that ever lived!

I have a great love and respect for my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and I would love for some of you to share how you show that love and respect to your elders on their special day. At 94 years old, my grandmother has spent the last several birthdays and Christmases giving her things to us, since she can’t take it all with her, and wants to give each of us a momento before she is gone and we are searching through her empty room for something meaningful. She gave many of us old coins last year, and even returned some old pictures we had drawn for her as children. What wonderful memories to share.

Please share some of your family memories with your au pair and ask him or her to share their family stories with you.

As always, contact me, Joan Lowell, your Go Au Pair Local Area Representative in Rhode Island, at 401.309.1925 or


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