Ralph Thomas


I used to love throw-aways. This was at a time some 61 years ago and before the recycling movement. Interest in protecting our enviroment was not yet in full swing. My love for throw-aways was the result of them making it possible for this newly married couple to purchase our first home.

It is hard to believe now that a beautiful brand-new, all-brick, six-room house with a large yard could be purchased for $16,800. We could just barely afford it, but living with my wife’s parents and having our first child was becoming problematic. We had qualified with the bank and thought it was a done deal. We were wrong.

The week before the closing date we were informed that we were fifty dollars short of the required down payment and if we couldn’t come up with this amount there would be no closing. Panic set in. We had saved hard to come up with what we thought was enough for the down payment. What to do?

Older folks reading this column probably remember when empty soda-pop bottles were worth five cents each when turned in to a store. We began walking beside the roads and highways in Augusta, Georgia, pulling wagons and collecting bottles thrown out of car windows. We did this until we collected one-thousand bottles which, when turned in to a store would give us the fifty dollars we needed to complete the amount needed for the down-payment. At that time it didn’t seem like a big deal. As kids, we used to collect bottles for spending money. We discovered that throw-aways had value.

We are now at a time in our society when people are living much longer than anticipated several decades ago. Aging parents who are also grandparents and perhaps great-grandparents, in many cases, have out-lived their usefulness, or so it seems. They are no longer needed as part-time baby sitters for working parents, running errands, taking grandchildren to appointments and other tasks parents don’t have time to do. But now the grandchildren are adults and, hopefully, on their own. So what to do with grandparents? Unfortunately, in many cases and to put it bluntly, they become throw-aways. It is not unusual for some grandparents to live many miles away from their children and grandchildren and, as a result may only see them once a year or so. They have become throw-aways because they are no longer needed. But, at what cost?

Through the eyes and hearts of many grandparents, they live lives of sadness. They feel like throw-aways. They have outlived their usefulness. I know time and distance are factors to be considered, but most grandparents are only a phone call away. In the hearts of these grandparents live memories of rocking babies, patching skinned knees, drying tears, baking favorite cookies, reading stories, watching grandchildren as they slept ... all of these things and more they painfully realize these precious times will soon come to an end.

In earlier times, several generations often lived in the same home. Grandparents, and sometimes great-grandparents, added permanency to the family unit. They were able to pass on the wisdom and experience learned over their lifetimes. They were the depositories of the family’s history ... the good and the bad. In many instances they were the glue that held the family together. They were valuable.

Phone calls, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook can instantly connect with grandparents, no matter where they are. Just a few moments can touch their hearts and perhaps yours. Don’t let a grandparent feel like a throw-away. Someday you might be one.

Ralph Thomas is a Locust Grove resident and the author of Doing Great, but Getting Better and Getting Old Can be Fun.