Ingrid – September 3, 2019
Grandparents’ Day is this coming Sunday, September 8. My two living grandparents, Mormor and Morfar, live in Florida in a retirement community that, while beautiful and resort-like, is very large and (in my humble opinion) a bit impersonal. I don’t get to see them very much anymore, which is why visiting with Farfar in the boutique, family-like atmosphere of The Danish Home is particularly important to me. While Farfar is my roommate and dear friend Lindsay’s grandfather, he is like a grandfather to me as well. So are some of the other residents I’ve come to know and love.
What’s really special about my relationship with Farfar is that he’s also Danish, like I am. Lindsay and I met in college while studying abroad in Denmark. We were both drawn to that particular program because we are of Danish heritage.
I used to think Grandparents’ Day was just a “Hallmark holiday,” but it turns out that’s not the case. It started in 1979 after many years of campaigning by a grandmother from West Virginia named Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, with the support of her husband Joseph. The couple had 15 children, 43 grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild! They were married for 60 years.
When President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first National Grandparents’ Day, he said: “Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.”
He fittingly chose the date to signify the “autumn” years of life.
When I was in elementary school in the late 90s, my teachers always marked the day with special events in honor of grandparents or anyone who played a grandparent role in the students’ lives.
Once, my Mormor visited my class to tell stories. She even told them about the pioneering spirit of my great-great-great-grandmother Olivia Rose (I call her Gigi because of all those Gs!), who was one of the founders of The Danish Home. If my mom ever helped out in my classrooms, I was a bit embarrassed, but when Mormor came, I couldn’t have been more excited than if she were the Queen of Denmark herself!
Grandparents have always been held in high esteem in Denmark. What’s “mor,” Danes are “farmor” specific in the way they identify their grandparents. In America, we refer to a female grandparent as “grandmother” and a male grandparent as “grandfather,” which doesn’t indicate whether they are our maternal or paternal grandparents. In Denmark, however, paternal grandparents are “farfar” and “farmor” (“far” means father; “mor” means mother), and maternal grandparents are “morfar” and “mormor.”
Danes also really appreciate the skills, traditions and values they have learned from their grandparents. As in any country, grandparents are the grownups children get to have fun with, leaving their parents to do the policing. As our parents and grandparents get older and in need of more care, it’s good to think we can give back to them. It’s our turn now to help them, just as they helped us when we were younger.
As Grandparents’ Day approaches, Lindsay and I have decided to treat Farfar to a fantastic night out. On Saturday, September 21st, The Danish Home Foundation is holding its annual benefit, “Chicago Jazz, Danish Style.” It’s going to be held at the Oak Park Country Club in River Grove this year and will feature dinner, beer, wine and cash bar cocktails. But the really exciting thing is that Grammy-award winning violinist Mads Tolling and jazz guitarist Jacob Fischer will be providing live entertainment that evening. Both Danish musicians are really something to see!
Since many of the residents of The Danish Home are grandparents, I think this fundraiser will be a great opportunity to honor and help not only residents, but all the grandparents who have been so special to so many people.
I bet my great-great-great-grandmother was truly a great grandmother! I’ll make sure to toast her with Farfar, who is a fantastic grandfather himself.