I began writing a weekly column on parenting and education for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News in August 1990.
It was, in many ways, a documentation of my own experiences, as a parent and an educator, and a response to the experiences of others who I knew or who contacted me through the paper.
In 2010, I shifted my emphasis from youngsters to oldsters, consistent with my own change in focus from raising my children, who were now young adults, to caring for my parents who were reaching a stage where independent decision-making was a greater challenge.
The shift from caring for children to caring for the elderly is not as great as you might think.
There are many parallels in providing for appropriate health care and intervention strategies.
In reality, our youth and our elderly share a common characteristic – they are the most vulnerable individuals in our society.
Sitting down to write each week for the last 24 years has given me many opportunities to reflect on such vulnerabilities and to consider how our roles, as parents of the young and children of the elderly, play out in the day-to-day planning of our lives.
If I were to pick just one term to describe what is necessary in those roles, I would go with “engagement.”
It is easy between the ages of 30 and 60 to get caught up in the hectic world of career development and consumerism.
It’s even easier, as Harry Chapin so aptly voiced in his song, Cat’s in the Cradle, to put off engagement with those who most need us until it’s too late and we are burdened with regret for opportunities missed.
I believe I can honestly say that while I’ve had a rewarding career, nothing I have achieved in the workplace has come close to matching the satisfaction I have gained from the experiences I’ve had as a ‘family man,’ both as a son and as a father.
Like just about everyone I’ve met, I’ve struggled from time to time with finding the right balances between work and home, discipline and empathy, pride and disappointment and confidence and fear.
Each grey hair on my head has a story, but I wouldn’t give up any of them.
As I bring this phase of my writing ‘hobby’ to an end, I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to editors Frank Klassen, Tom Fletcher and Michael Hall for giving me the privilege, and freedom, to share ideas with the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows community.
It has been an honour to serve the community in this capacity.
I would also like to thank the many readers over the years who contributed ideas, stories and support. I have learned a great deal from others through the feedback and suggestions I have received through e-mail contact.
The community is blessed with many caring and loving families and professionals and my family and I carry deep bonds of gratitude for the time we spent in Maple Ridge.
I leave with a final quote related to the concept of engagement.
It is, in fact, the title of a book that has nothing to do with parenting or elder care, but the impact of the words has stuck with me for a very long time and it has become my mantra as a family man:
“All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough.”
– Graham Hookey has been writing education and parenting columns since 1987. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.