Mine is a family of first generation immigrants. My parents, like so many other Canadians, and the majority of my relatives, arrived in Canada shortly after World War Two. New immigrants of that time, as is probably still the case today, cleaved closely to each other for support in a strange new land. When they had kids, those children spent many holidays together with their cousins. My memories of childhood are of a close knit extended family. I loved when we all got together, and I looked forward to those days with great anticipation. As time passed, personal interests and careers gradually loosened the bonds of family – or at least impeded the number of family get-togethers. As the second generation began to have kids, the gatherings became even more seldom, and sadly car rides to them included reminders of the names of twice removed cousins, my aunts and uncles and so on. And so it was recently as we gathered for my great aunts 90th birthday party. Ninety years is a great accomplishment for anyone, but relative to the life we have become accustomed to today- the life lived by my great aunt and many of her generation is not one that I can begin to comprehend. My children, even less so.
So, as we made our way to the assisted living facility where she lived and where the gathering was to be hosted, we reminded our kids of the importance of making a connection with their more distant relatives, paying them some attention and respect. The life experiences of our seniors are too often dismissed by generations that follow, and as a parents my wife and I like to encourage our kids to learn from those that were before them. Often, those opportunities come from family members, but that does not necessarily need to be the case.
Taking her parents reminders to heart, our youngest daughter (now 15) approached the first elderly lady she saw and with a bright, cheerful smile reached out her hand and said “hi, it’s good to see you again”. And so began a twenty minute chat that seemed to genuinely capture the attention and interest of both conversationalists. As both were seemingly enjoying themselves, I didn’t bother to inform my daughter that she was talking to a random stranger who just happened to be driving by in her scooter. As nice as that was, the moment served to reaffirm my feeling that our family indeed does not get together as often as we should !

Thanks for reading,

Jeff Neumann