We seniors are blessed to be able to look back and see the fruits of our labors: our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, yes, even great-great-grandchildren, and realize how important it is for each generation to plan for their own future even when that future will shortly be life beyond the veil.
This summer, our home became a point-of-destination for several of our grandchildren, who brought 15 of our great-grandchildren for us to hold, hug and love — and ,in my case, to play checkers and chess with a very bright 11-year-old, Lorn.
While Lorn clobbered me in checkers, I, with the help of Lorn’s four siblings, was able to quickly checkmate him in chess. Lorn was the oldest of our great-grandchildren to visit and Jacob the youngest, at four months. We had our pictures taken with each of the visiting great-grandchildren sitting on our laps. And because of the Internet we have been able to visit with the other great-grandchildren who didn’t visit us this summer.
It’s a totally different world today than then when my generation was born in the ’20s, or when our generation started our families in the ’40s and ’50s.
Joan and I are fortunate to be able to see the fruits of our life’s labors. And we like the fruit that has come from our labors. We now see that our efforts are paying eternal dividends — the dividends of a loving family that has grown in size that would have been impossible to comprehend had someone told us what our future would hold when we first began our journey as a family. And what a journey it has been, a wonderful but challenging journey.
Each member of our posterity is unique. And it is the uniqueness of each child that makes each family unique, providing opportunity for both parent and child to grow. Without this uniqueness there would be little challenge for parents in raising their children.
Our oldest family member is 86, the youngest four months. But what joy each member of the family has brought into our lives. Not until one fully comprehends life can they fully appreciate how rich life can be, even if one is called upon to hold a child in their arms and watch that child take his last breath — and then lay that child in his grave, a grave he will raise from when the Lord calls.
Our lives were lived line upon line and precept upon precept, day by day, month by month, and year by each challenging year. And after each visit, Joan and I sit down and review each visit just to hang on to those sweet memories for a moment longer. We arrived at this stage in our life with trust in God and a faith in each other as we faced each challenge as it came —often on our knees pleading with our Lord and Savior for guidance for whatever the current issue. And He was always there for us.
Priorities change when each new generation arrives. Our grandchildren, once carefree but now with children, tend to see life differently than just a few years ago. They are more interested in their family history and the challenges their ancestors faced as they realize now that their own generation will have its own unique challenges because that’s just how the Lord planned it.
They were hungry to hear about the challenges my great-grandfather Robert faced after his arrival in Canada in 1842 at age 21 and then cleared the land to make a living to feed his 14 children. I told them the Lord vetted Grandpa Robert just as he is vetting them to see if they will be true to Him. Grandpa Robert stayed true to Him.
Joan and I have been fortunate to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of our labor and perform our role as the family patriarch and matriarch and to help them better understand their own challenges.
Our major role: being a good listener as they struggle to solve their own challenges.
Being a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and a great-great-grandfather is one of those promised blessings for those of us fortunate enough to have lived through life’s challenges, battered but still intact.
Yes, great-grandchildren are great—they enliven the dimming eyes of the aging.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.