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My Generational Bonding Experience

by Joanne Hill

Sitting next to Grandma on the mohair couch, I learned to sew, crochet, embroider and knit. We also shared a love of reading, solving jigsaw puzzles and playing board games. Yet I remember most our many talks which helped prepare me for life’s ups and downs.

In fourth grade I met my favorite teacher, Helen Amos. Miss Amos encouraged me to write a play, which our class performed on the Battell School stage. After I was grown, Helen and I became friends who lunched and played cards together, sharing our dreams and adventures in living.

Through the years, several older (and wiser) neighbor women became dear friends. We shared recipes, child-rearing and homemaking techniques across the fence or while sitting on the porch in the evening.

In my younger days, I thought that these generational bonding experiences were more reliant upon what the older person had to offer. Not until I became the elder did I discover that the relationship is reciprocal.

At the time my children became teenagers, I was working in the Hotline telephone crisis program. Figuring out ways to bond with my own teenagers was more difficult than finding the bonding pattern for teenage and college age Hotline volunteers. As I helped the young volunteers learn how to deal with life’s crises, they taught me how to keep the communication channels open with my own family.

Sometimes adversity brings a closeness that we may not have realized otherwise. In the years following my husband’s death, over cups of tea and cookies, my mother-in-law and I formed a bond that helped heal both our hearts.

Although Dad (my stepfather) and I had a loving parent-child relationship, it wasn’t until Mom got Alzheimer’s that we really became close. I helped Dad write a book of memoirs and he helped me adjust to widowhood.

Each special relationship had significant elements that helped form our lasting connection. In every precious association the other person touched my spirit as well as my mind and heart. Each respected me as an individual. Each honored me with their wisdom. And most of all – they all listened with love, not judgment.

While I treasure the friendships with people my own age, I’ve found close friendships between generations are filled with treasures. The older generation’s wisdom gained from years of experience is like a lighthouse beacon, helping me to steer clear of potential disasters. The younger generation’s enthusiasm and dreams keep me from growing stagnant and dull. Truly, the generational bond is a golden one.

Published in REAL Connections - April 2003