Learning From Our Elders

men's white button-up shirtI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the amazing power of grandparents in women’s development and growth. I cannot tell you how many clients have told me stories of how despite turbulent childhoods; they were kept on a healthy path due to the influence of grandparents. This is especially true in my life.

I had an incredibly chaotic and turbulent upbringing and when people ask me how I turned out to be a solid, and mostly healthy woman, my answer is, my grandparents.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was particularly blessed in this department. I was the first and only grandchild (until the age of 15 when my only cousin was born) of all four of my grandparents! Not only that, but I was an only child which gave me extra spoiling leverage.

My parents were from the hippie generation and in short, provided a very unstable and unpredictable family environment. While I appreciate the creativity, open-mindedness, and interesting aspects of growing up like this, I most certainly suffered from lack of structure and stability growing up. That’s where grandparents come in-they were my saviours during those years. I was blessed with being sent off to spend every summer with all four (alternating between both sets) and received 100% love, affection, and undivided attention from all four of them for at least two months of the year until I was twelve years old. I was the apple of their eyes and I cannot possibly put into words what that has done for my development as a human being.

On my mothers side, my grandfather, Mel, was the head of the Physiology department at the University of Alberta for 20+ years and came from the wrong side of the tracks of the Jewish ghetto of Montreal. He worked his way up from short-order cook to doctor and was a leader in his field of medicine.

My maternal grandmother, Ruth, escaped the Holocaust in Riga, Latvia in 1939 and came to Canada. She went on to become a biologist and teacher and raised three children.

On my fathers side, my grandfather, Ben, ran his own fish shop in London, England and upon retirement, opened a rare booksellers business- he was an avid reader and bookworm extraordinaire.
My paternal grandmother, Ida, had been an independent financially self-sufficient woman working as a bookkeeper before settling down and having a family in her mid-30s.

All of my grandparents adored me, and I, them. From a combination of all of their guidance and love, I developed many passions and abilities including reading and studying, handicrafts, appreciating music and art, and cooking. I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten to know and love all of these amazing people so well and to have them all in my life until my mid-20s. I have one remaining grandparent living in London, England- my granny Ruth. She is 85 years young and speaks seven languages fluently (she has recently learned Italian). She travels extensively. In fact, as I write this, she is gallivanting around Russia just because! She knits like a pro, volunteers her time teaching children, takes language classes, cooks for everyone she knows, goes out to the theatre and museums and galleries, and reads everything in print. She’s like a walking encyclopedia!
From all of my grandparents combined, I have learned too many things to list, so I will highlight the most profound:


·Don’t wallow in sadness and grief- you have to keep living despite tragic circumstances.
·Life is an incredible gift and you must live it to the fullest- there are so many amazing things to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell- try them all!
·Give to others selflessly and you will be given more than you can imagine.
·Educate yourself and learn as much as you can so that you can contribute to the world.
·Don’t buy a lot and don’t overspend, but when you do buy something; only buy the very best.
·Cooking and feeding others is one of the greatest pleasures in life- enjoy it!
·Don’t waste- its very bad indeed.
·Give to the poor and those in need- it could be you someday.
·Have hobbies that allow you to lose yourself in delight- they don’t have to be productive; just enjoyable.
·Maintain connections with friends and family and let them know how much they mean to you.
·Laugh lots- you’re only alternative is to cry
·Don’t take yourself too seriously or you’ll be a drag to be around.
·Get out and see the world- its a fascinating place!
·Eat something fattening and indulgent even when you’re not hungry once in a while for the sheer pleasure of it.
·Sit in silence- you wont die. In fact, you may even find some peace.
·Don’t carry a cell phone- why would you want people to be able to contact you at every minute of the day? That’s crazy!
·Computers make people grumpy so don’t use them too often.
·Babies and animals can bring so much pleasure- enjoy your time with them.
·Know who you are and where you come from. That way, you’ll have a better idea of where you’re going and how to get there.
·Working is highly overrated.

Im guessing that you have some wise elders in your life or have had in the past. I encourage you to make a list of all the valuable lessons they taught you. Also, I believe that we always need elders and guides in our lives to navigate this fragile experience called life. If you don’t have any, go out and find some. And its a win-win- they probably need you as much as you need them. As my granny often says when I ask her why she doesn’t hang out with people her own age, They’re no fun. I like young people better.

We live in a society that unfortunately dismisses our wise elders and all that they have to contribute and this is a terrible waste of resources. I think that the young have so much to gain from hanging out with the old and vice-versa. So find a wise elder today and see how much you can learn…
I’ve gotta go-my knitting group is waiting!