Perhaps you have wished for yourself, as the saying goes, the wisdom of a ninety-year-old, the body of a twenty-year-old, and the energy of a three-year-old. While I cannot offer you the young and energetic body, I can provide some grandparenting wisdom from four delightful ninety-plus-year-olds and their suggestions for the best Mother’s Day gifts.
Let me first introduce these dynamic women. I’ll start with the youngest—ninety-year-old Joan Ingleby from Sandy, Utah.
Next in line by age is Florence Moody. Florence is ninety-one and also lives in Sandy, Utah.
Then comes June Alldredge, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, and turns ninety-four on her birthday this June.
Then the most experienced of them all, Deane Lawlor, age ninety-six, living in Lehi, Utah.
Value What Is Most Important
Ladies, your gifts of grandparenting are polished by practice. What advice can you offer regarding what is most important in grandmotherhood?
Joan, what do you feel is the most important thing you can do as a grandmother?
I think the biggest and most important job is establishing a healthy relationship with your grandchildren. The more support you can give them and the more love you can show them helps them to understand what’s important in their lives and what negative things can do. I hope I’m one of their best friends. I think that relationship makes such a difference.
Florence said it was most important to let her grandchildren see what she holds sacred and dear to her heart—the gospel and service.
I took them with me to Crosslands Care Center and let them push the elderly ladies in their wheelchairs down to the Relief Society room. I encouraged them to talk to the ladies—introduce themselves and show that they care. I also took them to the Jordan River Temple to do baptisms for the dead. My husband always had a barbeque treat for them. They thought it was great to be with Grandma and Grandpa.
The most important thing is that they know you truly love them and they can always come and feel welcome.
June agrees, but added, “I feel grandmothers should teach what is right by their example.”
Deane felt it was most important to see her grandchildren as much as possible.
So we are in full agreement that the most important thing a grandmother can do is to make the effort to establish and maintain a good relationship with her grandchildren. It’s something, however, we cannot force on them. One grandchild might be thrilled to hear from his or her grandmother. Another might find it a nuisance. And those feelings might change depending on their experiences and maturity. Certainly distance adds to the challenge. What do you do when your grandchildren are not close by and you cannot drive to see them?
“I call them on the phone or write to them,” said Deane. “Pray for them. Grandmothers should contact them any way they can.”
What about the use of technology? In your ninety+ years, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of change in the way people communicate. Some prefer one form while others like another. What is your feeling about technology?
“All this new technology makes me wonder,” said June. “I try to work on the computer and use a cell phone. Other things I leave to other people who know how.”
Enthusiastically, Deane said. “Oh, I love all this technology. I’ve tried to use it as it has been developed. I email and Skype, but I don’t text.”
“Not me,” said Florence. “I am illiterate about the computer and I have no desire to learn. I think the best way to communicate is one on one.”
Florence, you have a really large family. You don’t have all your children here to communicate with one on one, so what do you do?
“I have a phone, and I have long distance. At the beginning of every year, I write each birthday and each anniversary on my calendar, and I call them all. When you have 110 kids in the family, you have a lot of phone calls. If they are not there, I leave a message for them so they know Grandma called.”
So one-on-one visits trump technology. But making contact with grandchildren in some form is a vital part of grandmotherhood. That contact, whether it is a phone call, a mailed note, a text, or a Skype hello tells them they are thought of, cared about, and loved.
Let me ask you, then, what do you do when your grandchildren make choices that take them away from the gospel and Christ’s teachings? How do you set boundaries between unconditional love and standards you want to maintain?
“Try not to criticize,” said June. “Support them in their good actions. Listen to them and be interested in what they are doing. Include them, if possible, in what you are doing. Try to look on the bright side of things and not let society get you down. I try to live as I was taught, to always try to do what is right. Example is a great tool!”
“I agree,” said Florence. “Just love them. I try not to be judgmental. I figure they get enough of that from all around them. Everybody’s telling them what to do. I have family members who are far away from the Church, and I love them the same as everybody else. I just love my family unconditionally and pray they will come back.”
“I think the only way you can get through to them is to try to show love and respect and tell them they should take a little time to think before they act!” said Joan.
I have just one more question. Then I’d like you to tell us what you think grandmothers want for Mother’s Day—the best Mother’s Day gifts.
If you feel comfortable doing so, will you share with us a personal experience of when the Lord helped you get through a particularly hard time in your life?
Work through Life’s Challenges
I was given away at birth. I was unaware of being a give-away child until I was almost twelve years old. Things happen to you that really jolt your life and change the way you feel. Every person has their own personality and how they look at it which depends on what your outcome is going to be.
When I went to get my recommend to be baptized for the dead, the daughter of the presiding bishopric came up to me at a ward show and said, “You know no one wanted you and you were given away, and no one wants you around now.” So that was a challenge I had to face when I was young and decide which direction I was going.
I had a step-father who told me every day of my life that I would never amount to anything. That’s not an easy thing to live with. Even at this old age of ninety, I still have those feelings. You know it all depends on how you choose to react to different situations.
Well, I adopted the attitude of “I’ll show you!” At school I made sure I was very studious. I did things the way they were supposed to be. I got straight A’s, and that was the way I proved to myself I could do things if I applied myself. And I carried that attitude through life. In school, the principal’s daughter said to me, “I’m not coming back next year. I’m going to the university.” I asked her how she was going to do it. She told me her father said if a person had good enough grades, he or she could get a one-year scholarship to the university. Well that’s what I applied for too. That’s how I got my education.
You never completely get over the feeling that you were once not wanted. It affects almost everything in your life. You have to recognize things that are a challenge, and you have to put something positive alongside the negative. You have to remember you are a daughter of God, and if there is no one on earth who loves you, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you. That’s the most important thing in the whole scheme of things.
Every day young people have so many more difficulties thrown in front of them than what we have experienced. People’s standards are different. So when they perform or give a talk in church, we need to support them by saying, “I really enjoyed your talk.” Then they know someone is behind them.
Some children don’t know how it feels to have someone say, “I am so proud of you,” or “You did such a good job.” That is one way we can help our children and grandchildren get through their hard times.
Florence shared her feelings.
Losing my husband was the hardest. It has been ten years since he died. No matter how many people you have around you, it’s not the same as having your husband. But now there’s something on top of that.
My patriarchal blessing said I would have health and strength of body and mind, and I have. So why at ninety do I have to have cancer? When I was so very ill, I sobbed and begged for the Lord to take me home. I know it was my fear and my loneliness and my great desire to be with my husband. I couldn’t understand why Heavenly Father wouldn’t let me die. I was angry. And I guess that’s part of being sick, that you don’t think straight. My youngest daughter sat by my bed and stayed with me for about five nights, and took me back and forth to the hospital. I wouldn’t have made it without her. She is a cancer survivor, too. So she understood, and she was right there. I guess she was so understanding because she’s been there and gone through that. But I’m fine now. I’m even working in my yard from time to time. I’ve learned it is all part of Heavenly Father’s plan, even when this testing is so hard. I know now none of us have a say of when we are going to go. I’m going to have to put my trust in the Lord and wait until He is ready.
Deane said the hardest thing she has gone through was marrying the wrong person when she was young. “When the ceremony was over, I knew I made a mistake, immediately. He was good looking, a good dresser. Fun to be with. But I didn’t catch a few important clues. I got a quick divorce. I got through that hard time by leaning on Heavenly Father to make that decision and by talking a lot with my bishop, my hometeacher, my family.” With a laugh she added, “Talking with everybody I could!”
Ever since June’s husband fell and broke his hip last year, he has been living in a care center. He has severe dementia and very little eyesight or hearing. She continues to live in their apartment.
The hardest time in my life is now, when I have been married for almost 74 years, and now we are separated. I have tended to his needs and wants for many years, but as we grow older, we are now apart.
When he fell, my daughters came to my rescue and were with me. I really appreciated that. Then, when my daughters returned to their homes out of state, the granddaughters took me to see Miles whenever I wanted. Now, as the year has passed, and he is still there, I do not ask to go quite so often. It is hard not to go, for I have taken care of him for many years, knowing what to feed him, what he wears, how he sleeps, and just knowing how he is. Yes, I ask Heavenly Father, many times for help. I need His help daily, all the time, to get through this time. What can I say? I just take one day at a time, hoping all is right with him, and with me.
Prayer is the best thing we have. We all need His guidance. We need to listen, and hope we are on the right path.
Thank you, each of you, for sharing your feelings. You have shown enduring courage to not only stand strong in your hard times, but to press forward. Heaven’s medicine is not always sweet. But no matter how difficult or impossible the challenges may appear (and we all have them), there is always a clear way out, and it always begins with turning to Heavenly Father. Peace comes as we rely on Him to give us the emotional and spiritual strength to get us through the hard times and to encourage our faith to follow the promptings of the Spirit.
I find it comforting to know He will be there for us no matter how old we are. No matter how many children or grandchildren we have, or have not. As we lean on Him and take action through His guidance, we become stronger and more capable to assist Him in His work of building and uniting families.
Give the Best Mother’s Day Gifts
Last of all, what do you feel is the best Mother’s Day gift for grandmothers?
“All mothers love notes from their children,” said June.
Expensive gifts are not needed at this time of life. We usually have the things that we need, or go buy the things we want. For me, a small candy bar would do just fine. I love phone calls.
Since I cannot drive, a short trip to the grocery store is an extra special treat.
When the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren come to visit, that is always a good time that makes me happy. When they just drop in to say hello, it feels great. Some have brought in a dish of food (since I eat alone, it is always welcome), bringing in their babies. That always makes me smile.
Florence agrees. She said, “I always tell my family I need no gifts, just their love! And my kids are so good to tell me continually how much they love me, or send me a special, little note. That is all I need. One of the notes I got I read and just sat and cried and cried. It was so special to me. I put it out where I could read it every day for a while.”
I so appreciate them gathering at my home. They know they are welcome and loved. One of my grandsons contacted all of my grandchildren (and that was no small task). Every single one of them wrote a note and my grandson published them with pictures in a book and gave it to me. I will always be grateful for that.
“See them in person,” suggested Deane. “Skype with them. I think that is very important. My daughter made a photo book for me. It has pictures of all of my family in it. I can go through it whenever I want to. I love it!”
Joan said, “The best gifts are hugs, kisses, and photos! I have this letter from my grandson. It is one of my treasures.”
May I share just a couple paragraphs from your grandson’s letter, Joan?
My dearest Grandma Joan, what a fantastic blessing you are in my life. The thought of you and your impressive life, your adventures and accomplishments, and most impressive, the love you have for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren is overwhelming!
. . . I have many more fond memories of you from my childhood, teen years, and adult life. You have been there when I needed you. You always made time for me. You always asked about my life, you always showed me you cared. There were times that you came out of the blue with answers to prayers . . . blessings Heavenly Father granted that came through your kindness. Thank you for being worthy and willing to listen to the Spirit, to be a tool in the hands of the Father.
. . . I know that Heavenly Father thought to himself before he sent you here, “I am going to bless the Ingleby/Nelson family with a Grandmother who can emulate the love of Christ” . . . and He did just that.
The message of this article is really not about Joan, Florence, June, or Deane. The take-home message is about us! It’s about our application today of the lessons our own mothers and grandmothers left or are leaving for us. Messages of strength, of persevering. Of our willingness to obey even in the hard and lonely times. Of showing gratitude and giving back. The message is about us seizing the opportunities to love and be loved. To live more fully each hour, and to glean the wisdom offered by those defenders of the family.
Today is the time to let them know we care.