My grandmother passed away this week. She was 95 and had led a long life and her death was not unexpected. During the funeral, we were all sharing our memories and I was struck by how my stories lessened over time. My grandparents moved from New York to Florida in their retirement years and while I had weekly visits during my childhood, I saw them significantly less in their later years.
My children, though, will likely have a different experience with their grandparents. This week we embarked on our move toward intergenerational living. We are selling/just sold our separate homes and moved together to a large almost 200-year old house where we will all live together. I am sure we are not the first multi-generational family this house has witnessed. In earlier historical periods, families often lived inter-generationally (that term wouldn’t have even been needed).
This was not a quick decision for us but one that all the adults deliberated on for three years. We were watching friends and family take care of elder relatives, sometimes in distant locations, and saw that future as worrisome. We also recognize how much help and assistance my parents offer to our children while my husband and I balance work and home. We all get along well but would that change in close quarters? We made the decision to try it and fell in love with this new house. Suddenly, within a few months, we were all living together. Surprisingly, the adjustment has been easier than we expected. The hardest challenges are over the small things (whose knife sets should we give priority counter space too). However, we recognize that sorting out these new relationships will take time. The first time I heard my father talk sharply to my son, my “mother hen” came out, though my son needed the “talking to”. We like having each other around to consult with, hang out, be an extra pair of hands. We are learning when to step into each other’s businesses and when to stay out. Sometimes “factions” appear among surprising members of the household (my husband and my father; my son and my mother) and they change constantly.
The children, though, have had the easiest adjustment. A key moment happened a few weeks ago when we were departing for a vacation and my daughter asked why her grandparents were not going? “You said the WHOLE family was going,” my shocked daughter told me.
My daughter’s latest drawing below has Papa and Nana as a clear part of her family but on a separately line below her immediate family. I wonder how much longer until the order and hierarchy of her picture image of her family shifts and changes to react to our new living arrangement. In the meantime, here’s to our try at intergenerational living.
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading