In Becoming Grandmothers, Sheila Kitzinger describes the grandmother's role as the "kin-keeper." I have been understudying that role since my family lived with my grandma during the first two years of my life. I am the oldest girl cousin, just like my mom and grandmother were the oldest girls in their families. Grandmothers do emotional work. They sustain and nourish the family's kinship, keeping everyone connected with one another. This is a greater challenge now when families are far-flung and both parents are working grueling schedules. There is very little time left over for extended families.
I have 5 brothers, 5 sister-in-laws, 11 neices and nephews, 5 of whom are married. I had a grandniece and a grandnephew. Twice a year I revise the extended family directory, prying the information out of everyone. We established a family email list, sharing news and pictures, so we all know what is happening in our lives, even if we don't see each other often enough. I do more of the communicating than anyone else, but I consider that my responsibility. My husband and I are the only family elders on Facebook; we have discovered that is how to keep track of our neices and nephews and see their latest pictures..
When I was taking care of mother 24/7 during the last three years of her life, I scanned thousands of old family photos and slides. My husband, a computer programmer, wrote software for many family picture sites. His software enabled me to caption the photos and arrange them in chronological order. Pictures that family members had never seen were freed from boxes and closets and available to everyone anytime.capacity. At my mother's wake, we were able to show a slideshow of her life, with pictures from 1921 to 2004.
As I learn to grandmother, my Grandma Nolan is my inspiration and role model. Looking through her date book always brings back new memories of love, humor, kindness, and understanding.