Readings

Ruchi Minocha of Plano: Growing up with my grandma

12:00 AM CDT on Friday, April 25, 2008

Voices 

It was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Halley's Comet would be visible from Earth. We had plans of driving at night a few hours away from the city to an observatory. I remember the nervous excitement of driving through India's country roads in the dark. The picnic under the starry sky and the huge telescope are becoming hazy in my mind. But the memories that still tug at my heart from these moments are of my grandma, and the fact that she shared in this excitement with us. 

I had not realized how well caught up she was with the current events, be it political, social or scientific. I knew her as an extremely caring and loving grandma who cooked exactly what you wanted and when you wanted. She looked older than her age. She was a grandma who fussed over you till she was satisfied that you had eaten enough. A grandma whose wild hair I enjoyed brushing. A grandma whose hand I had held to cross the street and now held again to help her cross. 

Was this the grandma who was interested in viewing Halley's Comet? I thought she didn't even know about planets, let alone comets. But here she was discussing it all animatedly with us, pointing out that she may not be around for the next one. She said she wanted to take the trip even though it would be tough on her old bones. She did it. I am so glad she did.

I grew up in a culture where a grandparent's presence is taken for granted. I never questioned this arrangement as a child. I just reveled in it. I don't remember my grandpa; he passed away when I was 6 months old. But my grandma was always there. Her stories are forever etched in my mind. Like the one when she was little, and she would hide behind the door to listen in on the lessons her brothers were getting from the tutor. I guess nobody asked her if she wanted to learn to read, too. She did learn, though, from behind that door.

Food tasted especially good when she fed it to us. The last time I ate from her hands was the day before my wedding. I remember the wet henna on my hands, her moist eyes and the heavenly taste of dal and roti (lentils and bread) from Dadda's hands. Dadda, that's what I call her. 

Now she has her own cellphone. She doesn't need the phone book to call her five children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. She has all the numbers memorized. She checks on me more often than I call her. 

Isn't it my turn to give my kids that kind of experience, that feeling of being loved and cared for by a grandparent? The arrangement I reveled in as a kid now seems fraught with compromises. On one hand there is the peace of mind of having your (and your spouse's) parents near you. On the other is the question of freedom, though. It is freedom gained or freedom lost, depending on which side of the coin you look at. You get live-in baby-sitters but have to forgo some of the weekend getaways. There is 
always someone to talk to, but there is a thin line between advice and interference. 

Every family's situation is unique. But if you are lucky enough to have parents who are embracing their 60s, I am sure you have a tussle going on in your mind. I don't think there is any right or wrong answer here. Cultural influences and our own experiences mold our decisions. 

For me, I am having fun watching my son swindle grandpa out of 20 cents for a paper airplane and my daughter snuggling in with grandma, while listening to stories that will stay with her forever.

When I waiver, I think about Dadda, and I am reassured that there is no greater gift for a child than to grow under the shade of a grandparent.

Ruchi Minocha is a Plano homemaker and a Community Voices volunteer columnist. 

Collin County

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