Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Sobering Thought

I love my grandchildren and can't get enough of them (I love my children and siblings too, but I can get enough of them once in a while.)  If I had a bucket list, every item on the list would be doing something with my grandchildren.

One motivation, certainly not the only one, is so they will remember me, hopefully fondly.  I know that children under three rarely remember anything from their infancy, and as they grow older, they remember more.  As a practical matter, if I live the average length after diagnosis, Wally, now 17 months old, may have vague memories of me.  Obed, now 4, will remember a little bit. 

Obed is very smart and very perceptive for a four-year-old.  I don't know, for sure, what's going on in his head, but it's clear that he's concerned about what's happening to me and trying to understand.  He has asked me several times and his parents more often, "How do you get brain surgery?"  I've tried to reassure him that it's not something you catch and his parents have tried giving him more scientific explanations about cell mutations, but he's worried.

So, isn't it selfish and indulgent for me to try to spend all the quality time I can with my grandchildren?  They live 14 hours from here and normally I see them only several times a year for several days at a time.  If I truly love my grandchildren and want their welfare, wouldn't it be better for me to be this distant figure that they didn't know very well, and forget about very quickly?

Maybe I need to study Ayn Rand and learn the virtues of selfishness.  (Are you reading, Diane?  I would love to have a serious conversation with you.)  Being selfish goes against the whole fabric of the Christian culture I grew up with.  Maybe Ayn Rand was such a nasty person in life because she had the deep insight that if you truly love someone you will do whatever is necessary for their welfare, even if it involves making them hate you.

It's a quandary for which I doubt that I will have an answer soon.  Right now, I think I'll keep indulging myself with my love for my grandchildren.  I certainly don't want people leaving my memorial service telling each other, as several did following the funeral of a certain Mennonite preacher, "Well, we wouldn't wish him back."

11 comments:

Marcia said...

They might only SEE you a few times a year, but I'm sure the family talks about you in between and has pictures. I think if you were to not be around any more, it would be a comfort for your wife and kids to know that the grandchildren had as much time with you as they possibly could. And while they may not be old enough to carry specific memories, I'd guess they could at least remember that grandpa was somebody who loved them and enjoyed being with them.

Suzanne Gray said...

To spend as much time as you can with your family is a GIFT not selfish! Every visit won't be a Blockbuster moment but every time you are with them some bit of inheritance and love rubs off. Think of the times you were around family, the cherished moments. My grandkids remember that Grandpa Bill and I took them on trips and to Washington , DC, but most they remember and cherish the silly things. Not a day goes by without someone calling his name. You NEED to be imprinted on their hearts and remembered.. then you live on! A distant grandpa will only call to question... "Didn't he love us?"

PG said...

If I were you, John, I'd move to Manhattan post haste.

Anonymous said...

Try skyping with the older grandson, also make videos for the grandkids to view over the coming years. Spend more time out east, but don,t forget your Iowa kids.
Del

Catch Her in the Wry said...

Yes, I'm reading this, John. As I understand Ayn Rand's definition of selfishness, it is "concern with one's own interest," but not with disregard to others (which is most people's definition). Her philosophy is that one must be "selfish" in order to live. Biological needs are all self-interest (eating and drinking keep you alive).

I think that under this philosophy, your surgery to remove the tumor is a selfish act. An altruistic person wouldn't waste the medical resources on himself. You are selfish because you want to live as long as possible. You are selfish because you want to spend as much time as possible with your loved ones. This is concern with your own interest, but it is not bullying.

Being this selfish does not mean that others don't benefit from your selfishness. It means that you are fighting to stay alive as long as possible with the best quality of life you can give yourself, which in turn benefits your family and friends.

Rand didn't like altruism - those who sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others, but she also didn't approve of someone sacrificing others for his self-interest.

The ideal is a balance of self-interest without sacrificing your own or anyone else's benefits.

I think Rand would approve of your actions. You seem to have it all in balance.

On another note, my paternal grandfather died when I was 5 and I remember very little of him except that he was tall. I suggest you appear in some family videos interacting with the grand kids. When they are older, it will help them discover who you were and how much joy they gave you.

Peter Dyck said...

Try leaving a message for your grandchildren to be read when they can understand more....a list of your friend references...people who know you now and will be able to tell stories...all good...about you.

Judi said...

If you can't get out to see them right now, find some times when they can come out to see you. Make it happen.
Gio loves picture albums. So I would recommend you & rosalee putting several small ones together - with different themes. Like grandpa & the boys; grandpa & grandma; grandpa reading some neat, big picture books the boys love; grandpa's house. Stuff like that to provide memories & contact right now.

Send little gifts & letters-- nothing is better than getting something in the mail.

I'm sure Obed is curious & concerned - he's a 4yr old asking questions and should get 4'yr old answers. Mostly he wants to be reassured. This is the age when they start sorting out life, death, relationships. It's pretty confusing.

I know you already talk & Skype.

I hope a little of this helps.

And it's never wrong to love those little guys too much!!

Katherine Bartel said...

John,
Wanting to be remembered is not selfish. I am so glad that I can remember my grandfathers--family history has come to mean more to me as I age.

Your grandchildren will want to know you as they grow up. They may not think much about it as teenagers, but later they will. Why not record a video for them? Having footage of my grandfather talking to me would be a wonderful thing to have. Even though formats change, someone could always convert it to whatever is current later. Be sure to do it in a very quiet place, with good light and good sound.

Kathy

Pam Dunn said...

I think you should spend as much time as you want with your grandchildren whether it feels like you are being selfish or not. They will love knowing how much you adored them. Lots of pictures will help them remember you fondly.

JLF said...

I think Ayne Rand must have loved many people with all of her heart.

On another note, I am reminded of a light weight survey that said people on the East Coast tended to think the meaning of life was to do ones duty. But on the West Coast they thought the meaning of life was to enjoy it. I think your duty is to enjoy your grandchildren. They will remember you for it.

JLF said...

I think Ayne Rand must have loved many people with all of her heart.

On another note, I am reminded of a light weight survey that said people on the East Coast tended to think the meaning of life was to do ones duty. But on the West Coast they thought the meaning of life was to enjoy it. I think your duty is to enjoy your grandchildren. They will remember you for it.