5 Things This Millennial Has Learned From Her Grandparents

They'll have so much to teach you, and if they're anything like my grandparents, those lessons will be filled with humor and love (and maybe some advice about how to save a buck or two).
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As a 20-something, I've found that the number of things I have to learn is constantly growing. Instead of floundering around trying to discover how to become a "real adult," I made the decision to follow the examples of two people who have already experienced it all, who are the closest people I know to having figured out the important things in life: my grandparents. Here are a few of the lessons I've learned that are helping to guide me in this world:


1. There's nothing like having a story you can tell your grandchildren.

I have a lot of great memories (seeing the Eiffel Tower, attending my graduation for my master's program, dancing like crazy at a Miranda Lambert concert), but as someone who tends to play it safe in life, you won't usually find me doing anything super spontaneous. However, my grandparents have always known the importance of doing things just for the adventure. My grandma can still perfectly recount (at age 88) the time she and her best friend couldn't get in to see Frank Sinatra sing at an outdoor venue... so they climbed a tree to hear the blue-eyed crooner belt. They watched the concert from there, and of course it didn't bother them one bit that they had climbed that tree in full stockings and dresses. Now, my grandma tells the story, and her eyes still light up, thinking of that time that she took a risk and created a memory that was actually worth remembering for her grandkids.

2. It's not bad to be a penny-pincher.

Growing up during the Depression, my grandparents learned that every nickel you earn is precious. I definitely inherited this -- I've become known as a total cheapskate who's a sucker for a bargain. My grandpa recently described perfectly timing his doctor's appointments so that he wouldn't have to pay for parking. His elaborate scheme of rushing through the office and running through the parking lot led me to believe the parking cost must be exorbitant. When I asked him how much it actually cost, he said, "Three dollars." Lesson learned: With that kind of commitment to saving money, you'll never find yourself living on the streets.

3. Keep a sense of humor.

There's nothing you can't get through by using a little humor. My grandma had bypass surgery nearly 30 years ago after being a heavy smoker and has had several heart attacks since. Over the past few years, her health has gotten more precarious, and there have been several scary falls and hospital stays. However, no matter how sick she gets or how fragile her body becomes, she always sees the humor in life. She often jokes that the two things she wants on her deathbed are a cigarette (which she gave up after the first heart attack) and a Costco hot dog. She's still the sharpest woman I know, the quickest to think of a funny one-liner. At her age, most of her friends have passed away. After attending yet another memorial service for a friend, my grandma told me that everyone should have a funeral service before they've actually died, because "then you can hear all of the good things people have to say about you." She kind of has a point.

4. Appreciate your health.

While my grandma has had her fair share of health problems, my grandpa at 89 is in better shape than me (embarrassing, right?). He has a sailboat that he takes out at least once a week, volunteers for too many organizations to count, and still has time to be a caregiver for my grandma. His mother lived to be 101, his aunt was 106 when she passed, so he knows some of the keys to longevity. One of them is that he doesn't let any of his energy go to waste -- he continues to do the things he loves because he's lucky enough to have the health and vigor to do them.

5. There is such a thing as true love.

My grandparents have been married for 64 years. Sure, they bicker (mostly about things like how to correctly load a dishwasher), but they're still completely in love. When my grandpa helps my grandma up from a chair, he kisses the top of her head. They still hold hands. As someone currently in the dating world, their relationship is the absolute best reminder that it is actually possible to find your soulmate... that you can live together until you grow old, and that even if you squabble, you have someone who has your back no matter what.

But, above all these things, my grandparents have taught me the importance of listening. Spending time with my family has let me learn embarrassing (and often hilarious) stories about my mom, how to fight to overcome difficult times, and how wisdom truly does come with age. Even though I might not have exciting stories to share (yet), at least I'll have tales about my family that have been passed down to me. And I'll remind everyone I know that one of the greatest things you can ever receive is the gift of learning from those that have walked this earth before you. They'll have so much to teach you, and if they're anything like my grandparents, those lessons will be filled with humor and love (and maybe some advice about how to save a buck or two).


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