Technically, I had a single mother growing up, but she was not alone. She had an amazing support system from family. My mom is dope. She made sure that I had everything I needed, and supported me in everything I did. I know exactly where she got it from — my grandparents, Bazel and Jesse. They are the first two best friends that I ever had. I am 31-years-old now, and I still don't want anyone's sweet potato pie unless my grandma made it, or a 7Up cake unless my paw paw made it. I just started eating my aunt’s dressing, only because I was told that my grandma was there the whole time coaching her.
I try to talk to my grandparents often. The last time I spoke to them, I thought about where I would be without them. Then, I started to dig a little deeper and wondered where would most of us be without our grandparents. I asked myself, what part do grandparents have in the African American community, and what lessons can we learn from our elders?
You can tell when folks have established a good relationship with their grandparents. I attribute my “old soul” to hanging out with my grandparents. They taught me a lot. I learned how to present myself in public and not look like I was going to Walmart all the time. My grandparents are always on point when they go out. There was never a time when they looked raggedy, and there will never be such a time.
There were some things our grandparents deliberately taught us, and there were other things that we learned just by the way they lived. Here are a few that come to mind for me.
They taught us independence.
I don’t need anybody for my necessities in life. My grandparents helped me learn this. For example, if I asked them how to do something too many times, eventually they would offer to teach me. Not because they didn’t want to do anything for me, but because they knew it was a good idea for me to know how to do things without them. Occasionally, when I ask my grandmother for pie, she will say, “I could teach you how to make 'em. It’s really easy.” I would just laugh and continue with my request, because if Bazel won’t make the pie, then there will be no pie. Some things you just can’t imitate, and my grandmother’s sweet potato pie is one of them. My grandfather is the reason why I can fix a lot of things myself, without needing a super cute handyman.
They are the family court.
If I have beef with someone and for some reason my mom can't help me reconcile, the issue will be moved to my grandma who will then give a nice sweet talk, and tell you what Jesus would do. If that didn’t work (which it mostly did, because I’m not disrespecting my grandma), it would move over to Jesse, who wouldn't leave too much space for words. He would just tell you he wasn't here for it and to solve the problem. He worked too hard to tolerate nonsense. The police has never been to Bazel and Jesse’s house. They ran their own court.
They are the example of a well-balanced relationship.
They are what the rest of my family look up to in their own relationships. Honestly, Jesse is the reason why these skinny jeans wearing, video game playing, grown men have absolutely no chance with me. You know why my grandpa calls my grandma “bae”? Because it’s short for Bazel, not because of the in-between role of a girlfriend and wife that us "young folk" use. It will take a special type of dude — probably one who has a good relationship with his grandparents — to handle me. When my grandpa picked up my grandma, he would get out the car, open all the doors for her and put her in the car. When they reach their destination, he would drop her off at the door, she would wait inside by the door while he parked and then he would escort her the rest of the way. He has been doing this for her over 50 years, while some of y'all still wondering why your boo didn’t post your date night on social media. They are a power couple and all my family members that are married imitate them in some aspect of their relationships.
They played a mother/father figure to our friends.
Once you come to their house, you are now family and will be treated as such. Meaning that the second time you come through, you are expected to make your own plate. Folks tell them things that they wouldn’t want to express to their own family because they know my grandparents don’t judge. My grandmother and aunt had a daycare for a while which resulted in a bunch of kids that I didn’t even know calling MY grandmother, “grandma”. Guys talk to my grandfather and want to be cool just like him. Young couples want to sit with them just to get a little of the energy my grandparents possess.
They taught us what faith is and how to use it.
You know how powerful a praying mother is, right? Well picture that to the 10th power, and you have a praying grandparent. I don’t know why, but it always seems like their prayers go straight to the top without screening. Sometimes, I feel like mine stay pending. The cool thing is, half the time you don’t even know they're talking to the big homie for you. I know my grandparents have a direct line to Jesus. Not the Kenny G looking dude, but the natural hair, brown skin, coconut oil smelling Jesus.
I can’t speak on other races, but I’m black and I know for me and mines, grandparents are an important pillar in the African American community. They are the beginning, the grio, the psychiatrist, the stylist, the counselor, the detective, the secret holder and the fortune teller. Yes, fortune teller. If your grandma is sitting at a family function talking about she saw fishes, you need to text someone and say, “we need to talk.” My parents are dope. I say it all the time, but they got it from my grandparents, and my grandparents got it from my great-grandparents.
I used my own grandparents as an example, but I’m sure you see similarities with yours. I know that since parents are getting younger, it means that grandparents may be getting younger too. I just hope that they don’t lose that “back in my day” swag that make grandparents so dope. Shout-out to all the grandparents out there keeping the family and community together. We need them now more than ever. They show us how things used to be so that we can appreciate where we are. The Black Lives Matter movement is not new to them. They've been there, done that and have the scarves to prove it. If you are blessed enough to have a grandparent left, give them a hug, a call, stop by if you can and tell them thanks.