Last Sunday we had a big party. Its core was five children, 14 grandchildren and three great grandchildren – together with spouses and established inamorati. And we were joined by three other guests who had been present at our wedding exactly sixty years before the date that I post this on the internet. That’s what we were celebrating. But there was another celebration too: Eleanor Rose Lark Huchet de la Bedoyere, five weeks old, had her first introduction to the family. Being loved by so many people she can hardly go wrong: her only problem will be fitting her name on to a credit card one day.
So I am now very aware of the importance of family – and thankful we have been blessed with such a full quiver. Not everyone is so favoured. There was a little concert – Eleanor’s mother is a leading West End singer – and a sketch figuring the memories of being our grandchildren. They remembered so many things they were grateful for, but I had forgotten.
I was reminded that grandparents are not just the old people – helpful for baby sitting. They play a unique part in the upbringing of the young. They do not have a parental relationship with the children, which can be limited by the tensions of achieving autonomy, but a freedom and openness that allows for exploring territories in ways that parents cannot cover.
I spoke a few words – most of it was what you would expect. But, given that several of the older grandchildren are in different stages of relationships, I turned to the marriage vows: ‘For better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health etc’. And I told them that in a long marriage you encounter several of these, and when you do, you are sometimes only sustained by the unconditional commitment you have made. It was not a day for critiquing those in serious relationships, but are not married. I just hope that one or two will think more deeply about their options.
So what do you think of the rôle of the grandparent – either as a grandparent or as a grandchild?
At the end I gave them a little poem which I wrote as a Valentine to my wife a few years back. It seemed to sum up what I felt.
What right have you and I to talk of love,
Ex-patriots from the country of the young?
Our thinning blood’s at leisure in our veins,
The sharp tuned nerves of Eros all unstrung.
We fondly watch the relics of our love
Who propagate anew, and – in our place –
Do forge bright links along the endless chain
To join the rusting link of our embrace.
But echoes from the anvil of your loins
Greeting my hammer blows with rousing rings
Have not yet faded from the quivering iron;
And still it sings.
Many congratulations to you and your wife, Quentin, Families like yours are a real inspiration and a blessing, and an encouragement to the whole community.
Congratulations to Quentin.
Mary and I have no grandchildren. Our daughter never married and our son and his wife have no children; so we don’t really have a rôle!
btw I do admire Quentin’s poem.
Yes , happy anniversary to you and Mrs.Q ……..ad multos annos !
A lovely poem, and wonderful memories for your family to remember in the future.
Congratulations to both of you.
Well done – heart-warming – and a poem of substance!
But – to pick up a detail in the latter – ‘ex-patriots’? Is that what you meant to write, or is that a meddlesome spell-checker?
Thanks for your comment. I retain a vague memory of preferring ex-patriot to expatriate to draw attention by using an alternative form, such as poetry allows. Looking at it now I wonder whether I was right.
To your wife and yourself my congratulations on such a wonderful celebration.
For Grandmothers and Grandfathers I now read “elders”.
A special responsibility for the children of our families and equally for the children of our communities. A wonderful and diverse gift from the Holy Spirit.
In essence it comes from a mellowing woundedness and the ability to bless.
No matter how old we become ourselves we always benefit from the presence of the elders in our own lives.
Few of us get to experience and navigate all the stages of life. And our western culture places more regard for youngness and less on being elderly.
In this reflective piece I sense a real urge to bless with support the various stages of early life with its complexity of relationships. It seems like a mature impulse that seeks sensitive and caring application.
I wish Jesus had got to be an old man like me. But maybe that is why the Beautiful Spirit of God breathes on us the way She does.
What a heartwarming comment, your wonderful phrase, “wounded mellowness,” and appreciation of elders, who may not have their own grandchildren, but often have much empathy and wisdom to share.
Yeats railed at old age:
‘What shall I do with this absurdity –
O heart, O troubled heart – this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog’s tail? Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fantastical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible …’
The poet was only 64 when he wrote those lines. For the creative artist life can seem too short, and few get the opportunity to say farewell to the world as beautifully and poignantly as did Richard Strauss in his perennially popular Four Last Songs, written when he was 84.
Most of us are not destined to leave behind ‘monuments of unageing intellect’ but we can impart wisdom to younger generations which can bear fruit long after we are gone.
Thank you, John. It’s always a pleasure to come on beautiful verse unexpectedly.
Of course I too send congratulations to Quentin. But I notice that he asks a question about grandparents. I have a sense that the grandparent relationship is more relaxed — although the degree of confidentiality (versus informing parents) is a difficult one. It is only when grandchildren are confident that their ‘secrets’ won’t be passed on that they feel they can share problems safely with you.
Well done and congratulations to you and your wife, Quentin. Marriage is not always easy but it is always very rewarding.
I believe many of the clergy would have benefited greatly if they had been able to marry. But that’s another story.
Last week we had the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne. The most favoured grandparents in human history.
Many congratulations, Quentin and Mrs. Quentin.
“established inamorati” – I love it. Only one of my five is actually married, but all the others have established inamorati.
My grandparents had little direct influence on my childhood, as the paternal parents died 30 and 10 years before I was born, and my mother’s parents sadly lived too far away for us to see much of them, though I have some happy memories, and we were very dutiful in writing letters regularly, and sending and receiving little gifts, some which I still have, ours were mostly hand sewn efforts, and our latest attempts at drawing! Our own 2 grandchildren are also at a distance, though with more frequent and modern transport, and electronic communications, the relationship is probably closer, and we too have received some wonderful, lovingly made gifts, and works of art, as history repeats itself. They are lovely young people, and very kind, but we do notice a much bigger difference in the values which surround them than there was between ours and previous generations. We don’t know if we have any real influence, but we love them and pray for them, and see them and keep in touch as much as posible.
My maternall grandfather died on July 1st first day of the Somme in the High Light Infantry.
My grandmother from Bray in Eire spent most of her time with.my mother in the UK while my father was in the Second World war..So I did not see very much of my father’s parents maybe twice as I remember. I spent.most of my time with my maternal grandmother who spoke all.the time about her Catholic faith. I lived with her for a while when my parent’s returned to Eire for a number of years .I went to a convent for a few years.but I learned most of my faith from her.and my mother.But as I remember I was interested in it where my.older brother wasn’t in those days. although is now. where my even older brother who went to a boarding Christian Brothers School in.Reading when Cardinal Murphy O.Connor was there too .My.brother when he left joined the Royal Navy and I think it may have lapsed him.for years.Both my brother’s were married in Catholic Churches.
There is no knowing why those from the same family go their different ways .with regards to their faith.
Should say Highland Light Infantry. Above.