A Letter by Grandma Ellen to Hella, Germany
By: Catherine Wayland
Dear Hot Mamas,
Happy, Happy New Year! International Family Magazine, and Hot Moms Club kicks off 2009 with a world tour of personalities and countries filled with all kinds of mamas, grandmas and families around the globe.
Our first stop is Bonn, Germany with Hella Kramer, mother, grandmother and her dear friend in the U.S., Ellen Blaustein, mother and grandmother as well. Here they exchange letters to one another to discuss the natural resource of a grandparent and older person to the family unit.
Grandparents can be invaluable to us busy working, parents! And senior citizens as a whole are a wealth of information and experience for us as parents, professionals, first-hand historians, and human beings. Click onto International Family Magazine and read all the wonderful stories of seniors around the world. And call your grandparent TODAY!
Love, Cat Wayland, International Family Editor for Hot Moms Club, January, 2009
A Letter by Grandma Ellen to Hella, Germany
During our frequent Germany-U.S., U.S.-Germany ‘phone conversations’, you and I frequently discuss the roles our friends and we play in our children’s lives. Well, just imagine! Now we have an opportunity to write about this for our German and English readers for the January 2009 issue of International Family Magazine.
The official theme of this month’s issue is “The Aging As A Natural Resource”. My dictionary defines “natural resources” as “the wealth of the country”. And given the roles we play, perhaps you and I, and other seniors around the world do in fact qualify as part of our countries’ wealth.
When I got married at age 19, my relationship to my parents as a child virtually stopped. I didn’t call my mother up and complain because I never saw my husband during our first year of marriage, which was also his junior year in medical school. My mother was not a role model for me because she didn’t work after she got married. And I ALWAYS worked, both before and after my children were born. She couldn’t act as an advisor to me on how to manage MY life because hers was so much more circumscribed than mine. She was born and died in St, Louis, MO and lived her whole life there. Within the first six years of my married life, I lived in four different cities in two different countries. And my parents certainly did not help support my family.
But these days, the aging parents of children in the developed world CAN truly be described as a natural resource. We give sage advice (when asked) to our offspring; act as sounding boards for our children’s complaints ad nausea – about spouses; about life in general; about the unfriendly people in the cities in which they live; about difficulties with their children. And the only reason they don’t complain to us about money is that we are very generous with it. Piano lessons; dancing lessons; riding lessons; summer camp; private school tuition – we pay for all or part of these. Those of us who are lucky enough to live near children volunteer at their schools. And those of us who live farther away travel to fill in for parents when the parents travel.
When our children don’t need us, we aging seniors, those of us who are retired, offer our services to the communities in which we live. We serve on decision-making boards and do hands-on volunteering, as well, putting to good use all of our skills and smarts learned over a lifetime. Retired executives in the USA volunteer with SCORE, an organization that pairs corporate retirees with young folks needing business acumen. I serve on panels hearing cases against lawyers; co-chair a lecture series on the nation’s “hot” topics; chair a subcommittee for a women’s grant-making organization; and, in my spare time, wrap books at Borders for a favorite charity.
And, now, in addition, I see to all the legal, financial and health affairs of an older sister. Once, years ago, we took our son, Marc, to see Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times”. One scene in the movie showed him accidentally sending a clock through an industrial-strength ironing device. The clock came out flat as a pancake, and Marc said; “Now that’s what I call real permanent press”. Well, with my sister’s stuff, I now have “permanent stress”.
But I know that my mother would have done the same if called upon. Because, in the end, her gift to me was to lead her life with utter integrity and to instill in me, her youngest child, a sense that helping others and contributing to the good of the world is what makes life worthwhile.
And becoming a “natural resource” as she aged is what she did. And now as I grow older, it is what I do.
Hella’s Letter to Grandma Ellen
Hella Kramer, Bonn, Germany
Thank you for sending your letter on “The Aging as a Natural Resource” and the idea to exchange letters on the subject for International Family Magazine. I want to answer in my way and with my ideas. Since we began our long lasting friendship so many years ago in Paris, we communicate a lot. We talk about the different countries we have lived in and, about their traditions and culture. And we have had many fruitful discussions.
You know I was born in a part of Germany at the border to France. It was very early in my childhood that I was confronted with French traditions and then later, with English and American. I went to medical school in Munich and Paris. All my life I tried to teach my two children and now my grandchildren, to be open to the world and to different countries.
Now as a grandmother, I am no longer working as a medical doctor and I try to communicate with my grandchildren about different ideas and bring my part in. I go with them to museums. Especially now at Christmas time, I go to bookstores to find special books for them and the family.
Lately I met my oldest granddaughter at my favourite bookstore. How charming to meet her there. Dear Ellen, we as grandparents can really do a lot for the next generation. We buy their skiing equipment when their working fathers and mothers have no time. We take them to Switzerland and teach them how to ski. My husband as a grandfather is thrilled to ski with them.
But more than just regular duties we can fulfil as well. Since we are no longer the working generation, we have more free time. We can go to nursery homes and visit older people or patients. Many friends call me to discuss their health problems and show me their medical reports and, I am able to give them advice.
Seniors in their sixties and seventies like you and I are a real resource because we still have energy for work and helping, and we work with pleasure for the family and the environment. Especially you and I who had professional careers and learned many skills and expertise and we can offer our knowledge and wisdom. This life style I took over from my family and I try to give to the next generation.
World Tour: Bonn, Germany
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located about 20 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999. Starting in 1998, many national government institutions were moved from Bonn to Berlin. Both houses of the German national parliament, the Bundestag as well as the Bundesrat, were moved along with the Chancellery and the residence of German head of state, the Bundespräsident.
Bonn remains a centre of politics and administration, however. Roughly half of all government jobs were retained as many government departments remained in Bonn and numerous sub-ministerial level government agencies relocated to the former capital from Berlin and other parts of Germany. In recognition of this, the former capital now holds the title of Federal City (“Bundesstadt”).
Bonn has developed into a hub of international cooperation in particular in the area of environment and sustainable development. In addition to a number of other international organizations and institutions, such as, for instance, the IUCN Environmental Law Center (IUCN ELC) the City currently hosts 16 United Nations institutions. Among these are two of the so-called Rio Conventions, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The number of UN agencies in Bonn, most of which are based at the newly established United Nations Campus in the city’s former parliamentary quarter on the banks of the Rhine, continues to grow. Bonn is the seat of some of Germany’s largest corporate players, chiefly in the areas of telecommunications and logistics. Simultaneously, Bonn is establishing itself as an important national and international centre of meetings, conventions and conferences, many of which are directly related to the work of the United Nations. A new conference centre capable of hosting thousands of participants is currently under construction in the immediate vicinity of the UN Campus.
From 1597 to 1794, it was the residence of the Archbishops and Prince-electors of Cologne, and is the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven (born 1770).
It was also the site of the World Chess Championship 2008 between Vladmir Kramnik and Vishwanathan Anand.