Leave the Porch Light On – We’re On Our Way

A tribute to National Grandparents’ Day, Sunday, September 11th.

By Michal Lloyd

In Idaho, 10,574 Idaho grandparents are responsible for raising children under the age of 18. This does not include the thousands of children living informally with other relatives or close family friends.

2-1-1 Idaho Careline, 2022. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

Leave the Porch Light On – We’re On Our Way

I remember driving back to my grandparents’ house in South Dakota. My mom and  I would travel the dirt back roads leading to the farm, dust trailing us in swirling cyclones, rocks flying. There were many miles between porch lights glowing like beacons, guiding us home. First, we would see Francis Putman’s house and then my grandparents’. Grandma and Grandpa were up waiting for us long after the national anthem played, ending a long day. 

It is the time of the year to celebrate Grandparents—people who have experienced many sunsets and more new moons than most of us. We underestimate the importance of people with a bit of mileage on them. We seldom appreciate the natural patina age gives us, but it is not only essential to provide older adults their just rewards because they have experience and knowledge to share, but also because our view of age will impact how we age ourselves. 

Youth stumbles into the party late and charms us all. It crawls in, cooing with its fresh new skin and bright eyes, but the burnish of wisdom comes with age. If an older person were on the Antiques Roadshow, they would be valued higher if they were handcrafted and hadn’t been refinished numerous times. Yet, here we are, showing our discomfort with age by disrespecting it. We want it to be something it isn’t.

My grandparents raised me, and I suppose that is why I thought the correct name for a refrigerator was icebox, and why I love Glenn Miller.  We tend to treat aging the same way we view the passage of time. We are never happy in the present. When we are young, we want to be older. When we are old, we want to be younger. Each has its advantages. We would not be here if it weren’t for the pioneering spirit of our elders, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to learn from youth too. 

We need all the generations to educate each other on our path through life. Youth has its enthusiasm and determination. Youth is bold. Older adults are resilient. At this time in history, resilience is something we need most, knowing that there are peaks and valleys in life that you can ride the wave and although we experience storms, the sun will eventually come out. 

My mother-in-law is a young ninety-four. She has endured and maintained her faith despite adversity and still lives independently. She shows what it means to age with grace and dignity. She demonstrates strength to her family. A life well lived shows us that we can make it through difficult times and learn from them. 

My great grandmother lived through wars, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl. When they didn’t have much, she learned to do with what she had. She was an amazing cook making many dinners for her large family. She had fresh farm-raised ingredients most of the time, but there were also times when she had little but a dish rag to make dinner. So in my family we measure a cooks ability by what you can make out of a dish rag.  

In this modern world, many admire CEOs, politicians, the Kardashians, and NFL players, while right in front of us are grandparents and elders who show us so much more than any of those virtual people do, only seeing the shining reflection. It is harder to look at the entire story. We don’t see the entire story. There is no journey, porch light, or guidance for us to follow. It isn’t shiny but aging well is a beacon to us all guiding us safely home. 

If you are grandparent, relative, or close-family of friend raising a loved one’s child, you can find resources and support from Idaho’s Kindship Program.