As I watched my two boys this week at a science museum, I began talking to the only other parent in the room- an African American grandfather. He sat by me and spoke gently to his two young grandchildren as they played. He was incredibly friendly and we briefly discussed the need to keep children’s minds stimulated while on summer break. I mentioned my thoughts to him on how the museum was very rudimentary, and that a better one was reportedly only 20 minutes away. I asked him “Had he visited the other museum before?” He very quickly informed me he was born in Wilson and that he has always lived in Wilson (NC). I took that to mean he was very content to stay right where he was.
He went on to tell me he believed it was important for his grandchildren to know him. He said that he knew his mother’s side of the family growing up, but never knew his father’s side. Once, as an older child, he discovered that his father’s father lived on his same street… His grandfather had nothing to do with his family and his grandfather rejected any relationship with him. He didn’t elaborate; but it was clear that he was still injured by this, even though his grandfather has certainly been gone a very long time. I told him I had a difficult time understanding how family can reject family; even though a similar situation has occurred in my own extended family.
I have pondered this man and his feelings for days and this is what I have determined: some pain lasts a life-time. Some injuries are never healed. How they can linger! As we care for our seniors, we should be open-minded to emotional wounds we can’t see- hurts we don’t know about. It is okay to ask a senior you care about: “What is the matter” or “What is bothering you?” We have to be open-minded to hurts that aren’t about today or yesterday, but that can span back some 70 years….