Building a fund of family bonds

Relationships: "Something to Remember Me By" helps readersnurture intergenerational closeness.

Senior Life

August 15, 1999|By Sandy Guerra-Cline | Sandy Guerra-Cline,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Susan V. Bosak has connections most people would envy.

In this age of fractured families, long-distance relationships and the guilt that often comes with them, Bosak, a children's author, shared a bond with her grandmother that defied geographic and generational differences and transcended an earthly notion of time.

In her 1997 book "Something to Remember Me By," reprinted this year by Canada's research and education group the Communication Project, Bosak pays homage to that relationship. It's an award-winning illustrated storybook that begins when Bosak was a young girl visiting her grandmother and cooking in her kitchen.

"Every time the little girl visited her grandmother, the house smelled so good -- homemade soup and roast chicken and fresh-baked cookies." It follows the pair through the years, telling how after each visit her grandmother would give the girl little keepsakes, "something to remember me by."

It's a sad book -- the grandmother grows too old to care for her home and, in the end, has trouble recognizing her granddaughter -- but it's also, says the author, a learning tool and an inspiration for building connections between young and old.

In the "Reader's Companion," available free with the purchase of the book and based on research Bosak has done using her book in workshops for the Communication Project, Bosak offers parents, teachers -- and grandparents -- suggestions for exploring her book in depth with children. The guide provides storytelling activity suggestions (get someone you know to tell you about their grandparents), questions for prompting discussion ("What is 'old'?") and insights on intergenerational relationships, such as these:

The more complicated life gets, the more the simple things matter. Walks, errands and even watching TV with a grandparent can be special.

Indulgence is indeed the province of grandparents. Baking cookies, getting to pick what's for supper -- those are the things memories are made of. Bosak says interviews with several thousand elementary school-age children revealed their vacation destination of choice to be a grandparent's home, "because it's fun."

Young and old, we all have a basic human need to be loved. And being needed is part of the package. The child who hears, "You're the best grandchild in the world" learns to say, "You're the best grandpa in the world."

Simple truths, maybe, but for Bosak, they are the beginnings of life's happy endings.

For more information:

"Something to Remember Me By" ($15.95) is published by the Communication Project, a Canadian research and education group involved in exploring human communication. The "Reader's Companion" is suggested for use with children age 6 and older. For more information on the organization's books, story sessions and workshops, call 800-772-7765.

Making it work

Susan Bosak's tips for building intergenerational bonds are simple and stress-free. Here's a sampling:

Encourage family rituals, no matter how small. Sending cards, baking cookies, planting seeds, even ordering pizza on Fridays -- these all make memories. Bosak says some of the best memories are made in the kitchen, because smells and sights move us. It really doesn't matter that those cookies came from a mix.

Make regular phone dates with long-distance grandparents. Try doing book exchanges by mail so that you can discuss the books by phone.

Send a keepsake photo or item, and write down the story behind it. Start a multigenerational family scrapbook. It's family history made fun.

Bestow furniture. Assign a particular piece of furniture to each child or grandchild. Think of it as giving twice -- now and in the future -- and it makes the recipient feel important.

Share your best memory. Even in a strained relationship, a short note describing what you remember best about someone is a powerful gift.

Senior events

O'Malley Senior Center: Learn to avoid charity scams at a discussion at 11 a.m. Tuesday, at the center. Learn about diabetes at a program at 11 a.m. Aug. 24 at the center. Volunteers will assist seniors with health-insurance concerns and in filling out complex insurance forms, Aug. 26 at the center. Must make an appointment. Senior center is at 1275 Odenton Road in Odenton. Call 410-222-6227 for all events.

North Carroll Senior Activities Center: Live country music at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Free homeowner counseling at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Christmas in August craft workshop at 10 a.m. Thursday. Line dancing classes will be offered from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays beginning in September. All events at the center, 2255 Hanover Pike in Greenmount. Call 410-239-6400.

Seniors' dance: Live music and a light lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at Tall Cedars Hall, 2501 Putty Hill Ave. $8. Call 410-668-1317.

Educational seminars: Officer Art Weaver of the Prince George's County Police Department discusses senior safety and awareness at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, senior health and wellness at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 and senior personal safety in the home at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 1, at Woodward Estate, 14997 Health Center Drive in Bowie. Reservations requested. Call 301-464-4400.

Internet for seniors: A demonstration and talk on Internet basics is offered at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Woodlawn Library, 1811 Woodlawn Drive. Learn to search the Internet for medical, travel, health and exercise information. Register by calling 410-887-1336.

For calendar listing, please send typed news releases four weeks in advance to Lori Sears, Features, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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