The concept of the “bucket list,” popularized in the eponymous 2007 film with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, captured people’s imaginations because of its demand that we focus on the finite nature of our lives. What do we want to be sure to do before we “kick the bucket?” What experiences are filled with meaning, memory, and even a bit of the transcendent?
Since becoming a grandparent is a bucket list item for the vast majority of parents, Jewish and non-Jewish, you might argue that it is unnecessary, even greedy, to heap further aspirations onto the experience. After all, this is a role that we long for but have no power to actualize. Becoming a grandparent is a blessing in every sense of the word.
Since our family’s baby boom last summer, my husband and I are now grandparents of five little children, ages 1 to 3. The past three years have been a happy whirl of falling in love with each new baby while trying to be helpful to their parents. Being a grandparent is everything that friends said it would be, and it’s all of the things they could never find words to express.
Therefore, when we have been so richly blessed, are any further requests in the grandparent category appropriate?
It’s a fair question. Here are my thoughts:
Grandparents are keenly aware of the finite nature of time. Whether you become a grandparent in your 50s, 60s, 70s, or later, it is impossible to avoid the tick-tick-tick of your mental clock, calculating your age alongside your grandchildren’s. You hope to be around to dance at their weddings, but there are no guarantees. Time together is precious. That is why a Jewish grandparent’s bucket list—a short list—is not a silly idea.
Some of the items on my list are small and simple in nature, but they are big in the magnitude of what they represent. Here it is:
1. Participate in a Shabbat dinner where our grandchildren are leading all the brachot (blessings).
2. Give a big sendoff to our grandchildren on their way to Jewish overnight camp for the first time. Bonus points if the bus holds grandchildren from more than one family!
3. Be the student as our grandchildren teach me something they learned at day school, Hebrew school, or synagogue.
4. Teach them how to prepare one of their favorite Shabbat/holiday dishes.
5. Help them decorate their own sukkah.
6. Listen to them explain where they are donating their tzedakah money and why.
7. Spend a year planning and preparing for a family trip to Israel. Then take everyone on the trip. All of us.
If you are a young parent reading this article, perhaps you want to ask your own parents this question:
If you could compose a Jewish grandparents bucket list, what would you put on it?
I can’t imagine a conversation more rooted in love of family and generation-to-generation Jewish life. Feel free to share ideas in the comments section below.