Can Retired Grand-Parents Still Contribute To Society?

by Billy Lee – 李名信

I am a 86 year-old retired Architect – long retired from my professional practice and quite a few years retired from my volunteer work at The 1990 Institute in America.  Physically feebler, mentally slower, but aspiration-wise I still hope to be able to contribute to our constantly changing world. What can I realistically do, I wondered?

This morning, a light bulb flashed in my head, and I quickly dashed out an email to my dear Phillips Academy prep-school classmate, George Rider, who is also our Class Secretary at Andover Alumni News. I wrote:

Dear George, I have an idea for our classmates to ponder. Can we as Grandparents leave one or two truly memorable words to our grand-children before we pass? If so what words would each of us choose? This could be an interesting survey to share. Cheers always,
Billy – Ming Sing
PA’51 YC’55

Actually, I have observed for quite some time now that at our frequent family gatherings – always include many grand children and younger relatives – I have become a much more quiet and passive participant.  Although when opportunities arise I can still tell a few brief humorous stories to entertain the younger members.

As a Family Figurehead, I see myself now in a similar role as Queen Elizabeth’s of Britain – an antiquated symbol, but still with great opportunity to wield Influence over her subjects.  Gentleness, kindness, warmth, caringness, empathy, compassion, sensitivity, and sense of humor with dignity, and respectfulness are all important ingredients the Queen must continue to practice if she wishes her subjects to listen and emulate.  As a Grand-parent, I must do the same to win my grandchildren’s attention and to induce them to take seriously what “Two Words” I wish they will forever remember.

BTW, after much deliberation, I changed my “Two Words” for my grandchildren to “Four”: “Be Kind and Smart” instead of just “ Be Kind” or just “ Be Smart “. Of course, what words we choose to leave to our grandchildren will depend on how old they are now and how much they are capable in comprehending.  Indeed, we may also decide to choose specific words for each specific grandchil.

You may be interested in the three very different and endearing grandchildren I am privileged to have: Alana, a 13 year old girl by my second son, is serene, studious, and perhaps a bit passive.  Gage (boy) and Lexi (girl), the 6 year old twins by my number one son, are surprisingly smart, but eager to show off, and rambunctious as a tag team– and laughing like crazy much of the time. The boy is more methodical. The girl is more intuitive.

We don’t see Alana as frequently as we see the twins, as she lives in Berkeley about one hour’s drive away from our home. When the family members get together around the dining table I always make sure that she gets an opportunity to tell everyone her latest encounters in school or at home.  She is still a bit shy, but she is definitely gaining social composure. To make up for our infrequent person to person contacts, we build our bonding by sending each other email attachments of special interests on timely occasions.

My wife, Lucille, babysits for the Twins at our home two evenings a week. The Twins come after school around 3pm and leaves after supper near 7pm.  They always have some idea or several ideas on what they want to experiment at our house –indeed their Play House.  They may do acrobatic exercises under the open-steps stairway. They may do drawings and paste them all over different doors. They may pull down all the cushions from the living room sofas and chairs to create their cave home – each time a different design – amazing!

Supper time is Conversation Time for them, since I accompany them and keep them occupied by telling them stories which I conveniently make up to fit the mood. Often I pump them with mini questions to test their knowledge or personal character. For example I would ask them who is kinder- Nai Nai or Yeh Yeh? I would ask them what can we do to make a cousin feel better after the cousin lost her I- phone?  What happens when we shift things around?- like their cushion habitats. Never too difficult are my questions, but always fun and getting more challenging. We all have a good time, and a Joyful relationship we build together.  It’s Fun for them because they get to quiz their Grandpa too!