Sunday, February 11, 2007

where have all the parents gone ?

Friday was my maternal grandmother's birthday. I miss her dearly. She would have been 83. She was a no nonsense sassy kind of woman, not afraid to tell you like it is, even if you were the Queen of England. But generally grandmothers are like that. If they don't already have it, they take on an air of attitude that becomes more apparent once they gain the grandmother title. The rest of the world has to just politely concede to whatever they say. But that's what makes grandmothers fun. Besides they're the only ones that can still order your parents around & that's got to count for something.

Over the past few years, Africa has witnessed an unprecedented change in population due
to the onset of AIDS & its widespread annihilation. Africa's children are finding themselves orphaned & it has left grandmothers as the only adults around & in charge. There is no one save for their grandmothers to whom they look to for their daily upbringing. Most of these grandmothers are well into their 70's, some even in their 80's. Barely able to take care of themselves, they have had to be the cornerstone for their grandchildren, some shouldering the responsibility of as many as eight children at a time, almost all under the age of 10. Unable to work, these grandmothers have had to find means of ensuring their brood are somewhat fed, if they can even manage that. Add to that they have also had to learn to administer medication to those of their grandchildren who are HIV positive. These African grandmothers are showing resilience, defying stereotypes & surprising those skeptics who are quick to stick to the old adage - the old uneducated African grandmothers know nothing about new modern medicines & will never learn on how to administer required doses. The grandma's sure showed them. For Africa's orphaned, their grandmothers are their only hope of surviving into adulthood.

For the most part, Bermuda's grandmothers are not your typical average. Most are not old enough to be grandmothers. They certainly don't look it. But yet here they are - a good 20 to 30 years from retirement, employed full time & some taking on an important responsibility - raising or helping raise their grandchildren. It's a different scenario when compared to Africa. In Bermuda, the parents are alive & well but are unable to support themselves or their new offspring because they are in their teens. They have nowhere to turn & grow to be increasingly dependent on their mothers, if not both parents. But this is not typical of most non-nuclear families in Bermuda, rather just a percentage. But for that small percentage, it's an extraordinary added responsibility & sacrifice that these grandmothers are undertaking. It's no surprise really - If you don't expect a mother to turn her back on her child, what would make a grandmother be so different? The next time you cross paths with a middle aged Bermudian woman, keep in mind that as young as she may look, she just may be a grandmother - raising & supporting two generations at the same time.

No comments: