Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Across the divide of time

I thought I had a dentist appointment this afternoon but I got the day wrong, it's tomorrow. Which gave me a whole extra two hours this afternoon, better than a time change!

Yesterday was my grandson's birthday, and the family tradition is for me to Skype or Facetime in for the singing of Happy Birthday and the cutting of the cake. T, my grandson, had requested a cheesecake for the occasion. He is now 17 years old. What was remarkable from my perspective was that he initiated the Facetime call with me. While everyone else in his family was getting ready for the 'main event', T made conversation with me.

He asked, "So what are you working on today?"

This was so unexpected I didn't know how to answer. I sat there trying to remember what I had done that day, and since it was actually a busy day there was lots to remember. I finally came up with: "I made salsa."

He was impressed that I made salsa, he said he didn't know that you could make it yourself. I asked him what he worked on today and he said he was rehearsing Twelfth Night, for which he had scored a main role. Then he picked up a small child and showed him to me on camera. He told me that it was cousin with a name I can't remember or even pronounce if I could remember it. Told his cousin to say 'Hi' to me, which he did. Then swung the camera around to show me another cousin, a slightly older child, and finally his younger brother P.

What impressed me about the conversation is that he asked me what I was doing that day. Never in all the conversations I have had via phone, Skype, Facetime or even in person have any of my kids expressed any interest in knowing what I was doing. Occasionally I will mention something but it falls into the conversation like a rock into a black hole, never to reappear or be acknowledged.

Earlier that day at the dogpark I was chatting with a fellow old lady dog walker and mentioned a conversation with another older woman who had been quite ill this summer and whose husband is paralyzed and keeps her very busy looking after him. Her illness made the summer extremely stressful and she complained that none of her kids stepped up to help. When I repeated this story to my dog walking friend she chipped in with her own stories of offspring neglect. How the youngsters don't seem to appreciate the difficulties of older age (my friend is 85, the other woman I spoke of, 80) and blithely expect one to carry on unaided. So far my own experience is similar although not quite as extreme.

At the dogpark
I complained that my kids want me to listen to them talk about their lives but seem totally uniniterested in what might be going on in my life. My friend countered that she remembered having that same attitude towards her own parents. That they must be endlessly fascinated by the lives of their children and couldn't possibly have anything to say for themselves that might be of interest. I said I knew what she meant and that 'what goes around comes around'.

So when my grandson actually asked what I did today, I was struck speechless.

Towards the end of the call he suggested that I download a particular game that we could play over the internet, he thought it would be fun to have a 'gaming granny' that he could play with. After the call I looked up the game he suggested and it was a popular shoot-em-up last-man-standing-wins kind of game. Much as I would like to have the interaction with the grandson, I don't know if I can bring myself to play that particular game.

The difficulties of navigating intergenerational communication…

1 comment:

Wisewebwoman said...

What an interesting post! So happy for you that your grandson sounds so caring. Interestingly enough I was preparing a post called "Relevance" kinda on this topic which I will finish up later. As we age, the interest of others wanes away.

I used to be hurt over such neglect, I am the oldest of all my siblings. When I announced my book launch via email and text and also posted it on FB I expected some acknowledgement, some recognition of their 75 yo sis putting out a book. But crickets. This time I laughed, really seeing as if for the first time they never have had any interest in my life. I, an emigrant, am on another planet. I, an elder, even less relevance.