Last week my husband got to go out on a big fishing boat and go fishing. Definitely not something he does or has ever done. It was pretty cool to see him with these huge fish. A week later and he put those giant fish on the smoker. I thought he was a little crazy for spending so much time checking on them and then getting our son to check on them while my hubby was playing baseball. After the game the team came over to celebrate a birthday and he brought out the fish. Oh my! I haven’t tasted fish that good since I had fresh tuna in Cuba! Now that was the best fish I had ever eaten but this fish came close.
What brings me to write about fish you say?
My very first thought when I took a bite was, “Oh, my Grandfather would LOVE this!”
My grandfather loves fish. Not the Captain Highliner kind from a box but the really salty, really smoked, really fresh, really gourmet kinds. He’s Dutch so especially herring. When we visited the Netherlands a couple years ago, we stopped at a herring food truck but the line was so long, we decided to pass. Plus it looked absolutely gross. The only reason I wanted to stop and try was because I knew my grandfather loved it so much and we happened to be in his hometown. Every Christmas and special occasion someone would by him herring or smoked fish of some kind. So any time I see or eat fresh fish, I think of him.
My grandmother is recalled to mind anytime I see a flower on the ground, go shopping for clothes at the mall or I smell perfume. My Omi is brought to my thoughts any time I visit Ikea, smell nutmeg or see Delft blue tiles. Memories of my Opa come flooding back when I smell cigars and antiques or I see a great blue heron or a windmill.
I am always sad when I hear of people who don’t have such sensations. There are no grandparents to have memories of. For some it’s because their grandparents passed away before they were born. Others had grandparents so much older that they never really got to know them or they lived far away in a seniors home. In those cases there is nothing that can change those circumstances.
But then there are the families who chose for whatever good or bad reasons, to cut off their children from their parents. For some maybe their parents were toxic and they didn’t want them around their children. That makes sense to me too. I am a big promoter of making family. If you don’t have grandparents, adopt some. There are so many seniors who don’t have grandchildren and would love them! There are actually matching programs in most cities that will match grandparents to grandkids. I would totally do that if I didn’t already have so many of my own still living. My children are blessed enough to still have all of their grandparents and 4 of their great grandparents. My grandchildren still have their great-great grandparents!
Last week, one great grandparent of two of our foster children passed away, while another one of our fosters got to meet his great grandmother . Such different families but the common theme in both families is love.
The grandmother who passed loved her great grandkids. She kept their photos and drawings. She sent them gifts for Christmas and birthdays and saw them when she could. She always encouraged us in our caring for them and was always asking how they are and was thankful for any photos we would send along. I was thankful to know her as I learned a lot from her about the history of her family. I learned things that I can share in the kids scrapbooks. Little nuggets of information that will help them to connect to their roots.
The other great grandmother, whom we just met, was a wealth of information and family history. I loved hearing that her brother was 6’5. Explains why her grandchildren are all so tall when the biological parents are not. It runs in the family. The best part about meeting her was not in the history but in her eyes. One she has the same eyes that we look at every day and two they are filled with love. She was so happy to meet him for the first time and the love she had for him was immediate and evident.
These are the reasons we work hard to connect to biological families for all of our foster and adopted children. We want them to know about the people they came from. Good and bad. We all want to know about the people and places we are from. That’s the reason we took the trip to the Netherlands. It was not just to see the tulips, but to discover what has influenced our family for generations. The orange, the Delft blue, the canals, the windmills, the wooden shoes, the fish. All the smells, the sights, the sounds and the things that have been a huge part of our family and have made me the person I am.
Each of our children have their own heritage to discover. We know that kids who are adopted do better when they know information about their roots. Surveys show that kids in state care want to preserve their heritage. There is no evidence that keeping information about a child’s heritage secret is beneficial. By the time a child becomes an adult the people in their history may not be around anymore. It is our duty as the adults (foster/adopted parents or even social workers) to find the information that is available and preserve it especially for children who will not have a relationship with their grandparents.
If you still have grandparents, I hope that you take the time to collect your family history while you can. They won’t be around forever. Spend time with them and be thankful for the contributions they made to your life.