My Gigi Karatchuk died on December 2, 1984 when he was 67 years old. My older sister (brown overalls) and me (sucking thumb) with my paternal grandparents, Baba and Gigi, circa 1980.  

“Grandparents are only with us part-time.”

That was the gist of a late-80s MTS commercial.

If grandchildren are fortunate, we’ll have memories of our grandparents – even if we lost them at a young age. However, if our grandparents are still with us in our teen years, or our 20s, 30s, or 40s – we start to believe they are invincible.

While we need our parents, there’s a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. And when a grandchild – young or older – loses that connection, it has a profound impact.

As children, our grandparents were the ones who feed you forbidden treats. You’d spend time with them, and you wouldn’t have a care in the world, except when the Smurfs turned purple. Grandparents could calm you down with sweet tea and Mr. Christie Coffee Break Cinnamon Raisin Cookies. They assured you there was a boogieman or a bear outside your window.

As an adult grandchild, when we walk into our grandparents’ house, we back revert to our childhood. Our worries are left at the door. We don’t have to think about the realities of life. In Grandma and Grandpa’s, Amma and Afi’s, Baba and Gigi’s house – we’re safe and sound, and eternally five years old. With endless puffed wheat cake and hot chocolate with coloured marshmallows.

Front to back: little sis, me, big sis, maternal Baba and Gigi Taraschuk, 1999

But when we lose our grandparents, we lose our sanctuary and sense of security. As grandchildren, we feel a range of emotions. Anger, emptiness, abandonment. And, we, the grandchildren have to face the harsh reality that grandparents were human like everyone else.

But our grandparents weren’t just anyone.

Because they were our grandparents, and they weren’t supposed to leave. The love from a grandparent is unconditional and irreplaceable. They will defend and protect you whether you were right or wrong – especially when they know you’re wrong – because you’re their grandchild.

Often, grandchildren’s pain and grief is forgotten when a grandparent dies. We’re overlooked during the chaos. The ones usually left out of the obituary because we weren’t their children.

We were though. Our name says so. We were their grandchildren.

Yes, our grandparents are in our lives part-time.

But that doesn’t mean they didn’t play a major role.
Originally published in the Interlake Spectator and Selkirk Journal on April 28, 2015.
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