Grandparents Day: Caring goes both ways

By Doug Bardwell, Red Cross volunteer

Believe it…Grandparents Day is really a ‘thing.’ Actually, it’s been a thing for 43 years now. Congress passed a resolution declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as Grandparents Day, which President Jimmy Carter signed into law in 1978. Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Mexico also celebrate Grandparents Days, albeit on different dates.

According to NationalToday.com, “Like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we also have a whole day dedicated to our grandparents. Grandparents and children have a special connection that is proven to both make grandparents live longer, and also make children more emotionally resilient. Grandparents Day is an opportunity to treasure that connection and spend some quality family time together.”

As a grandparent of 19, we are unusual in that only three of our grandkids  live outside Cleveland, and the rest are all within 15 minutes of our home. Rarely does a week go by without talking to or seeing many of them. ‘Opportunities’ to get together abound with football, baseball, soccer, tennis, cross country, track, swimming, basketball, band, dance, gymnastics and theater.

Now that many of them are older, the grandsons eagerly anticipate being old enough to come to our monthly Bardwell boy’s night out (BBNO) events.

On the other side of the spectrum, we know plenty of people our age who rarely see or hear from their grandchildren. That’s sad, not only for the grandparents, but for the grandchildren as well.

Parents, it’s your job to encourage those visits. Or if your parents have passed, consider a night out at an assisted-living community and maybe adopt a grandparent. It would certainly make that senior’s day to have youngsters around they could talk with.

As someone who has experienced a great deal in life, I feel one of my biggest jobs now is to pass along good examples to my grandchildren. I will never be one of those preachy grandparents, and we try to never contradict what their parents have told them, but I know lots of them are picking up what we demonstrate by our social norms, our religious participation and by our volunteerism.

While I haven’t landed any American Red Cross volunteers from the family yet, I know we’ve gotten many to start making blood donations during their college years, and I think some may be considering volunteering after graduation.

Have you got someone in your family who might make a great volunteer with the Red Cross? Talk up your experience and make sure they have the information they need to get started. There are opportunities for even high school aged students. Get started here.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

What will you share on Grandparents Day?

By Doug Bardwell,  American Red Cross volunteer

Grandparents Day is not a national holiday, but rather a day of observance. Most people get the day off; but only because it occurs on a Sunday. That said, there is so much grandchildren can learn if their grandparents take the time to share.

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Red Cross volunteer Doug Bardwell and grandsons William Saki and Drew Saki .  Photo provided by Doug Bardwell

For example, I’d like to share with my older grandchildren the joy of volunteering. I’ve been with the American Red Cross for exactly three years today, and I can recall so many wonderful memories of times I was able to help someone.

When a family has experienced a terrible fire and have lost everything they own, helping them realize there is hope for the future and helping them start that rebuilding process is a joy I get every time I respond to a fire in our community with our Northeast Ohio Region’s Disaster Action Team.

When I give blood, I’ve learned that every pint I donate could help as many as three different people. For the 42 pints I’ve donated, that’s up to 126 people. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve talked with someone who required more than 330 units of plasma in just under two weeks to keep her alive. Having enough blood on the shelves is always important for whatever emergency might come next. I suggest that all my college-age grandchildren try to donate blood.

I’ve also shared the story of a homeless man in California that I met after the giant Camp Fire last year. He was born in Ohio but moved to California because there was “too much traffic” in Warrensville Heights, where he was born. At the time of the fire he was homeless but happy, living in the woods outside of Paradise, CA. He enjoyed being able to tell his story to someone who knew about his original hometown, and we talked for hours. Sometimes a person in distress starts to heal by just having someone to talk with.

I also share that while the Red Cross responds to disasters and helps people recover after a disaster, we also help people prevent and prepare for disasters. With all the Red Cross apps for mobile phones, two are especially good to share with grandchildren: the Monster App and the Swim app. They can easily download either one by texting “MONSTER” or “SWIM” to 90999.

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Eddie Bardwell, left, Grandmother Maureen Bardwell, and Ella Bardwell.  Photo provided by Doug Bardwell

So on this Grandparents Day, take your children to talk with their grandparents and see what wisdom they have to share. Or if you are a grandparent and don’t already have an abundance of stories to share, consider volunteering with the Red Cross. You’re guaranteed to have some soon enough for next Grandparents Day.

For more on the history of Grandparents Day

National Grandparents Day falls each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. It was initiated at the grassroots level by West Virginian Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade. She and her husband had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. And she still found time to lobby state and federal leaders to create this day of observance.

It was in 1979 that President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day. September was chosen to signify the “autumn” years of life.

While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have apostrophes, officially Grandparents Day does not. It seems this may have simply been an oversight when the holiday was proclaimed. But it’s an oversight that serves the holiday well. Marian did not envision the holiday as “belonging” to grandparents. Instead, she saw it as a day of celebration involving the whole family, a day to connect the generations. It’s just as much a day to honor grandparents as it is a day for grandparents themselves to confirm their loving legacy to the generations that follow them.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer