This Sunday is World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. The theme is In old age they will bear fruit (Ps 92:15).
“The day emphasizes how grandparents and the elderly are a value and gift for both society and ecclesial communities”, stated a February 15 communique from the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
The day is also an invitation to reconsider and value grandparents and the elderly who are too often kept on the margins of families, civil and ecclesial communities. “Their experience of life and faith can contribute, in fact, to building societies that are aware of their roots and capable of dreaming of a future based on greater solidarity.”
The Catholic News spoke to two members of the Church about how they feel about the fruits they bear and value to their family, community, society.
Deacon Simon Rostant said: “The fact that I am now bordering 74 years mean I would have been planted so long ago. I’ve been able to grow and mature and I’ve also been pruned. Therefore, it is never a question of same old, same old, same old. Growing up, one has to expose oneself to new opportunities. It should never be I know what I like and I like what I know, because we are placed in different environments.”
Deacon Rostant spent 40 years as an educator at Presentation College, Chaguanas. He became principal of the school in 2001, and left in 2008. Although he entered the so-called retirement years, he looks at it differently now, as a permanent deacon (since 2013).
“I don’t use the word retired again, I use the word retread, because God seems to have made me worthy for another few…I don’t know how many more kilometres.”
Deacon Rostant is enjoying his present phase in life. “I am thinking that people being exposed to me would be getting something of my experience and they wouldn’t have to go through what I went through, the poverty that I saw, having to walk to school barefooted.”
He added that when he told of his childhood going to college with one shirt and not having long pants, it evokes “a shudder at the thought they may be exposed to that kind of thing”.
Deacon Rostant makes it a teachable moment to those facing the rocky road, “Poverty is never a hinderance to reaching the pinnacle of any particular enterprise. If you take it as ‘I am at the bottom and there is only once place to go and that is to the top’ then, with a certain amount of courage, enterprise and education one would certainly achieve what others may think would never have been possible.”
He sees the fruits of his labour in his children and the thousands he taught. “When I see Roshan Parasram (The Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health) and some of those who went to the College when I worked, I feel proud.”
Presentation College, he added has produced many, some of whom he calls “movers and shakers in our society”. Deacon Rostant continued, “the fact is, if I want something medical explained I could go to a [former] student, if I want to have some legal advice I can go to a student. I still meet [past] students who say they benefitted from having been exposed to me…they might remind me, even though they might have gotten into a few situations where some redress had to be administered, they tell me they are better off”.
Esther Francis, 76 years, of the Barataria parish is enjoying her great-grandchildren. “I have three grown grandchildren [ages 30, 29 and 20], and have the experience of being with them as little ones and seeing them grow up, which was the highlight of my life…when I had my children, I was busy working and studying.” Francis was pursuing nursing in England in the 1960s.
“Being a grandparent for me is like another set of children that I could spoil.”
She was a strict parent, which is why her children (one son, 53 years and two daughters, 54 and 52) remark on what her grandchildren and great-grand can get away with. “My daughter will say ‘we couldn’t do that’, ‘Ma, you didn’t let us do that’”.
Francis said she never thought she’d see her children grow up, “never mind having grandchildren and great-grand”. She explained, “As a young person, you never look so far. In my era, people died young; my grandmother died at 55 or 60.”
She has great-granddaughters ages nine and three and a great-grandson, three years. Being with them has given her “a new lease on life”.
While in England, her three-year-old great-granddaughter Cicely, fondly called ‘Tornado’ treated her as if she was also three. “She tried to have me running here and running there, doing things with her. It’s like the things you do with them, that you didn’t do with your children, I’m realising that it’s fun! It’s fun to try and crawl under the bed…to try and jump in the water, it’s fun to jump on the trampoline.”
As a senior, she believes she has the utmost respect of the people in the neighbourhood community. Francis served as the President of the Kiwanis West club for five years and earned a “distinguished” member award.
Kiwanis International gives “distinguished” awards to individual Kiwanians and clubs that meet established criteria that demonstrate special dedication to service, membership strength and Kiwanis education.
“I was brought up with a single mother who taught us, what you give today, you don’t give something and expect anything,” Francis said.
She is proud of her children saying they turned out “very well” and gratified with her contribution to country. She continues to be fruitful.
“I’m always willing to do something for someone, I am always ready to give…I was brought up that way and I brought my children up that way.”