Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Longing of Long-Distance Grandparent

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Longing of Long-Distance Grandparent

Article excerpt

In the 30 years I lived in Pittsburgh, I shared the community's feelings. I loved the sports teams, I relished french fries on my sandwiches, I cherished Kennywood as a summer shrine and I saved my bad thoughts for potholes and the New England Patriots.

But my attitudes included one abstention from the community consensus. Unlike almost everywhere else I lived, Pittsburghers made a point of believing that if your grown-up children didn't live nearby, this was one of the worst afflictions ever to be visited on a parent.

I never understood that. Being someone who was brought up in Australia and encouraged to leave my homeland - was it something I said? - going away as an adult seemed natural.

As I observed when living later in London, English parents were not haunted by the prospect of their kids one day moving elsewhere. Indeed, many English parents sent their kids to boarding school to give them the hint. The general understanding was that the empire would not have been founded if everybody had stayed home.

Yet when I came to Pittsburgh, I found that parents feared that if their kids grew up and moved away, they would fall in with the wrong crowd, possibly from Cleveland and with the poor taste not to support sports teams dressed in black and gold.

Admittedly, the horror cannot be overstated. Still, don't we bring up children so they will eventually move away? When little birds leave the nest, do they just fly to the next tree, or is the sky the limit?

That is what I thought. Then I had children myself. Then I had grandchildren, with the help of my original children. Then I came to realize that Pittsburghers were right all along. Now I am being punished for my earlier lack of wisdom.

In California where I now live, I am roughly halfway between two sets of children and grandchildren. We are doomed to spend hours in cramped and crowded airplanes with suitcases stuffed with presents. This is the one thing I did not budget for in planning retirement. I am flying to the poorhouse via New York or Sydney, Australia.

My son Jim and his wife, Katie, live on the East Coast with their son, Nash, who is now 21 months. We saw Nash and his parents in October in New York City, then at Thanksgiving outside Boston, not far from the town where Katie is from. …

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