The Sweetest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: Virtual Grandparents

I didn’t know my maternal grandparents very well.  They lived in Michigan and I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania. During major holidays we might take a road trip up to the Midwest, but mostly we went to the Great Lakes State for family reunions.  My mom’s side of the family would get golf visors made for the reunion and games aplenty would take place between us cousins.  The warm summer sun would beat down on my family, and it was the time of Kool-Aid, lawn darts, and sack races. My grandparents were avid card players and the family game was Wild Rummy.  Neither of them are with us; my grandfather passed away in 1993 and while I was in the middle of working on the M/V Explorer in the middle of the Indian Ocean, my grandmother joined him.  The memories I had of both of these grandparents are of two wonderful, warm, family oriented people who lived a long, wonderful life being married together.

They say, “Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.”  It’s clear that for many of us, grandparents are such a special part of our lives. Sadly, not everyone’s grandparents can make the journey to their wedding, as was the case for my friend John. His frail yet spirited grandparents from his mother’s side were both living in an elder care facility in Arizona, but John’s wedding was in Mystic, Connecticut. He was very close emotionally to this pair of octogenarians; but, the large majority of guests would be able to make the East Coast wedding so an Arizona wedding was out. He discussed every possible method of transporting them to Connecticut, including having his brother drive them in an RV across the US so they wouldn’t have the stress of flying. Alas, they rebuffed every suggestion and said that they were happy just to know that John found his soulmate.

Luckily, John is friends with a bunch of us techie nerd types.  We got in touch with the elder care facility to get John’s grandparents to be on the receiving end of a Skype call. At the wedding, we placed a laptop with a webcam in the front pew; his grandparents watched the whole ceremony live!  One of the groomsmen came up with the idea of having them “sit” at a table as well, so we placed the laptop at the reception table with John’s parents and siblings.  It was so adorable to have the table include them in dinner conversation, grab the laptop to show the cutting of the cake, and even spend a few quiet moments with John mid-way through the reception. Both of John’s grandparents passed away not too long after the wedding, making their presence at the wedding even more special. One of the best photos in John’s wedding album is John, his wife, and a laptop with the smiling faces of his grandparents shining through the screen.

If you have long distance relatives that can’t attend for cost, health, or work-related reasons, there is so much technology available now that at least they can be there virtually!

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