Our cover story this week speaks of the travails of grandparents who are burdened with raising the offspring of their wayward children. Though we are inclined to look at it as a uniquely contemporary problem brought on by today's permissive culture, it probably goes back to about the third generation of humans on the planet. It may be a more well-publicized phenomenon these days, but it's not new.
I can relate it to my own early childhood, where my parents were occupied by circumstances beyond their control, leaving me, at least in the first years of my life, to be cared for by my grandparents. The exigent demands were occasioned by World War II, a national emergency that called upon all to do their part. My mother, like millions of other young American women, was employed in a defense plant. (Every plant was a defense plant in those days.) My father was in the Navy, toughing it out at Pearl Harbor, post-surprise attack, teaching other guys how to shoot down aircraft.
So as an infant I was raised by my grandmothers. My mother's mother, who had me first, brought me along until I began to speak. She and her husband had immigrated to the U.S. from Spain in the1910s. She did not speak very fluent English. Her Spanish was great, however. And for a little while, mine was coming along pretty well. Until my other grandmother heard me habla-ing and put a stop to that. "We're not raising any foreigners around here!" Mary Margaret O'Hern declared, regardless of the fact that she had been a citizen of Inish Boffin, Ireland, until she was 17. My mother and I were required to move in with her.
These days I have a lot of friends who are becoming, or have become, grandparents. They all love it when their grandkids come visit. And they are all happy when the little darlings go home again, with their parents.