Written by our Founder and CEO, our Celebrations Pulse letters aim to engage with our community. By welcoming your ideas and sharing your stories, we want to help you strengthen your relationships with the most important people in your life.
Every time I drive on Ocean Parkway, a road that crosses the south shore of Long Island, I think of my grandfather and taking the same route with him on our fishing trips many years ago. For a few seconds, the rush of excitement that I felt as a child returns to my now grown-up self.
In these moments, I wonder if he knew that I’d remember our summertime excursions decades later. Did he realize he was teaching life lessons or planting the seeds of a lifelong love of the water? Or was Grandpa’s grand plan just to spend time with me outside my universe of Queens, New York? It’s probably all the above.
As a grandfather now, I imagine that the joy I feel with my seven grandchildren is the same joy my grandpa felt with his. The grandparent-grandchild relationship is a special one that generates lifelong memories. And it’s a two-way gift: Grandparents and grandchildren both benefit when they spend time together. Whether it’s the grandparents being more physically active or the kids learning something new (that’s actually old), we all need to cherish these moments.
Especially today, Grandparents Day, because there is a lot to celebrate!
Lessons from our grandparents
Everyone lucky enough to have one or more grandparents in their lives growing up is likely to have a story to tell about their influence. The topic has come up repeatedly during Celebrations Chatter podcasts and conversations around the office.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with celebrity chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio, and he shared memories of his grandparents. He told me that not only did his grandfather teach him how to fish, but also how to garden. In fact, in an interview with Wine Spectator, Tom said: “I get up in the morning at six. I’m out in the garden for two hours and then my day starts, and it’s just a much better day. It makes me so happy.”
What a special gift from his grandpa!
I also recently spoke with Oscar Munoz, the former CEO of United Airlines. He told me about how he was raised by his grandmother for about seven years when he was young, and that while she didn’t have a job or a home, the two of them traveled through Mexico, staying with various family members, and relying on their love and support.
My grandmother was always so bright and cheery and joyful, and sweet and giving. And she passed those values on to me. When I have faced issues and had to make tough decisions about certain things, those values come up, and it’s very much helped form my leadership style, which is one of outreach and of bridging gaps, listening, and learning. All of those came directly from her.
Hear more of my conversation with Oscar in this week’s Celebrations Chatter podcast.
Sharing the love of grandparenting
My wife, Marylou, and I are so fortunate that all our kids and grandkids (ages 23 months to 14) live nearby because we get to see them a lot. We go to their sporting events, dance recitals, and social activities without any of the responsibility of getting them there. We just get to go and enjoy it. Marylou and I also do things with them individually and all these activities provide us with such special memories.
At our recent family reunion, for instance, our granddaughters Abby, 14, and Emma, 9, joined Marylou and me in the kitchen to make pizzas, chop lettuce, and get everything ready. It was great to talk about baking and food. It was even greater to catch up on their lives and hear their excitement for a new school year.
Recently, I took Abby to a corporate event in New York City. And what I remember most about that day is how it opened up the world for her. She met several women who are leaders in their fields. And during the ride on the train, she experienced for the first time someone reading a newspaper – me!
And Kurt, our 5-year-old grandson, loves to go fishing on the boat, like my grandfather and I did. I’m hoping these moments are impactful for them as I know they have been for me.
Sometimes I surprise them. One of my favorite memories involved taking them to a concert of one of my favorite bands. They weren’t expecting Coldplay! I guess they thought I was too old to appreciate a band that was outside my generation.
Ways to celebrate Grandparents Day
There are so many things you can do on Grandparents Day to show them your appreciation for how much they’ve shaped your life. Just the simple act of setting aside some time for them and letting them know you care has numerous benefits, for young and old alike. Tend to their yard or garden. Take them out to lunch, during which you can ask them to share stories of their youth. Send them a handwritten note if they’re far away.
As we get older and start to lose our grandparents, we recall them fondly, and the life lessons they taught us. On Grandparents Day, it’s important to remember them and all the memories they gave us, and, if you’re a grandparent now, aim to provide meaningful memories for your grandkids so that they can remember you lovingly as they get older.
All the best,