Emmy Award–winning TV producer Gilbert (Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents, 2006) discusses “what it [is] like to be a parent without parents.”
While the graying of the American population is a familiar demographic, much less recognized is the trend of children spending less time with their grandparents. Increases in life expectancy are more than counterbalanced by the tendency of families to marry and have children at a later age. For the author, who grieved the loss of her own parents, even the most joyous occasions, such as the birth of her daughter, were marred. Her grandparents would never know their granddaughter; they would not be there to offer support when Gilbert faced the inevitable crises of motherhood; they would not be around to encourage their grandchildren's successes. For a time, the author felt resentful of her husband because his parents were still alive, and she was jealous of their close relationship to their grandchildren. Eventually, Gilbert founded the nationwide network Parentless Parents, and she writes about how interacting with others struggling with the same demons helped her to heal. “Indeed, more than even in their own spouses and siblings,” writes the author, “parentless parents find comfort in one another.” While parenting without the support of one's own parents is difficult, Gilbert realizes that being orphaned at any age and not having children is much more of a loss. Along with the practical advice (e.g., keeping a memory journal), the author’s moving stories should open an avenue of help for readers facing similar situations.
Although somewhat repetitive, the book provides a welcome reversal of the all-too-prevalent tendency to regard the elderly as a burden rather than a resource.