I’m very lucky to still have all four of my grandparents alive. But I feel terrible sometimes because I don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like. They live in Arizona, so I’d take a plane to get there. Being on a college budget, that’s not something I want to do a lot. But they don’t seem to keen on taking a plane themselves, and they’ve even told my parents that they would be worried about slipping and falling in our house (this offended my mother, of course, who always keeps everything very neat and perfectly safe). I can call them on the phone, but I hate that we’re not actually seeing each other. I’m not sure what to do, so I’m looking for advice.
It’s natural and healthy that you wish you could spend more time with your loved ones. It’s a common sentiment: many of us wish we spent more time with family, and this is true across all age groups. The idea that anything might be standing between you and that important time together is certainly frustrating.
But while it may not be easy for all of us to understand, it’s very possible that your grandparents aren’t exaggerating the difficulties and dangers of travel at all. Statistics show that flying can be more dangerous for the elderly. And the developers behind the American Standard walk-in tub tell us that slips and falls in bathrooms are very common among older people, and it has nothing to do with the condition the bathroom is in: the act of getting in a regular tub is perilous for the elderly even under the best circumstances. Familiar surroundings or, better yet, specialty fixtures like the aforementioned walk-in tubs can make a huge difference. It’s very possible that this was all your grandparents were trying to say, and that they never meant to upset your mother.
Your budget prohibits you from visiting, and your grandparents’ health prohibits them from doing the same. Perhaps you could reach out to them and express your concerns about your own ability to afford a visit–they might just choose to make your next Christmas gift a contribution to your travel fund. Or perhaps you could raise the issue more explicitly, though you should be careful to be diplomatic and mindful of any budgetary restrictions your grandparents themselves might have.
If travel is out of the question and phone conversations seem insufficient, perhaps you should use one of the many applications designed for video chatting. The telecoms experts at Polycom.com describe themselves as the experts that reinvented the conference call, and they’re some of the many pros working on advanced video conferencing software. These days, crisp and clear communication is possible over a variety of free and paid apps. Even the less tech-savvy among us can manage to use features like Apple’s FaceTime. If your grandparents don’t yet have the proper devices for this, maybe you could make your next gift to them a tablet computer or other chat-ready device.
Unfortunately, we can’t all visit our loved ones anytime we’d like. But try to be understanding about your grandparent’s health and their inability to travel. Do what you can to pick up the slack, and if all else fails, rely on technology. Ultimately, what matters most is that you can communicate with your grandparents and show them that you care.
“When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window.” — Ogden Nash