by Father Mark Goldasich
Circle July 25 on your calendar as a time for presents.
Pope Francis has declared this the first church-wide World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. In subsequent years, the fourth Sunday of July will be set aside for this celebration.
Did you ever wonder where the word “grandparents” came from? Apparently, the term was first used at the beginning of the 19th century. “Grand” in this case has the meaning of “a generation older than” — that is, older than your parents.
I was one of those lucky kids who got to spend loads of time with my grandparents, at least my maternal ones. Sadly, I don’t remember much about my dad’s folks as my paternal grandma died before I was born and my paternal grandpa when I was only 3.
I do, however, have plenty of memories of Grandma and Grandpa Modrcin. For the first five years of my life, my folks and I lived in an upstairs apartment next door to their house. One of the things I was most grateful for was my grandparents had an indoor bathroom.
One early conversation with my grandpa went like this. He said, “How come you don’t use that outhouse (behind our apartment)?” I replied, “Because it stinks in there!” He answered, with a twinkle in his eye, “Well, what’s it supposed to smell like? Roses?”
As a grandkid, I was one of Grandpa’s “go-fers.” When just a little kid, he’d send me down to Stanko’s, a pool hall a block away. Clutching the money he gave me, I’d get a couple of quarts of a beverage called Falstaff and a couple of cigars. Without batting an eye, Stanko would hand over the items, give me a candy bar for free and tell me to say hi to Grandpa. Today, my poor grandpa would be arrested for this . . . as would Stanko!
While my grandpa was bigger-than-life and gregarious, my grandma was petite and quiet. She always seemed to have a shy smile and was a wonderful cook. Although she never learned to read or write, she was a genius at coming up with ways to figure things out, like how to set the stove to the right temperature, how to read a clock or how much change to expect when a bill was paid.
My favorite activity was helping her make povitica, or Croatian nut bread. I got to grind the walnuts, and Grandma kept an eagle eye on me in case I tried to gobble a handful of walnuts. Her ability to stretch the dough without tearing it never failed to amaze me.
She could stretch a penny pretty far, too. Whenever people gave her some money for her birthday, for example, she’d set it aside to give it later to us grandkids for our birthday or first Communion.
Grandpa died in 1964; Grandma in 1972. But the lessons that they taught me still guide my life.
Both were faithful and proud Catholics and Croatians. They taught me to be a hard worker, but also to take time to enjoy a good celebration, preferably with lots of food and drink, music and dancing. They cherished their family and friends and were ready to help others when needed. And, even in the worst of times, they continued to have a resilient spirit and never lost the ability to laugh.
With the scattering of families today, many kids don’t grow up living close to their grandparents. That might be one of the reasons why Pope Francis established this special day. He doesn’t want grandparents and the elderly to be forgotten.
So, take time on July 25 to shower your grandparents — and the lonely elderly — with lots of presents, especially the kind that you can’t buy: your presence, preferably in person, if possible. Naturally, keep them in prayer and maybe even go to Mass with them.
Above all, remember why we really call them “grand”: It’s because they’re magnificent, impressive, great, superb, fabulous and first-rate. And we wouldn’t trade them for any money in the world — not even a grand!