He is the lightkeeper
he keeps the light for me
safety deposited inside a microfold
hidden somewhere inside
those pretty hands
--Finney, "The Lightkeeper"
Is Nikky Finney's poem "The Lightkeeper" about her dad or someone else? Many people have different opinions on who her poem is about, but when I read it, I imagine the lightkeeper to be my grandfather, even though my family is your basic "Cleaver" family. My parents are still happily married after their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They both own their own successful businesses and have two children who are now in college. We also have the spoiled dog that everyone probably likes better than any other member of the family. Anyone observing my family would probably guess that my parents taught me everything that there is to know and that they shaped me into the person that I am today.
They would be wrong. My parents had to work long hours when I was little to make our family and left me under my grandparents care every day of the week. My grandfather was actually the person that shaped me into who I am. I now believe that grandparents often have a much larger impact on a child's life than parents could ever have. Parents today are having to work more and harder to be able to provide for their families. Children are often left at day care centers—or with grandparents. Over the past twenty years, increased attention has been given to the importance of grandparenthood (Chalfie 32). "Higher divorce rates and an increase in both parents working full time has caused more grandparents, and other relatives, to take over the primary care of the child" (Newman 201). This new found emphasis is the result of longer life spans: adults are living longer, and four and five generation families are more common. This change also reflects the importance of grandparents to grandchildren. Grandparents influence their grandchildren both directly, through face-to-face interaction, and indirectly, by providing emotional support (Doucette-Dudman 98). When a grandchild confronts a problem and knows that her grandparents are there to support her, she is indirectly influenced by their emotional support.
Grandparents also serve as role models to their grandchildren. A role is defined by the "set of expectations, rights, obligations, behaviors, and duties associated with a particular status position" (Newman 592). Grandparents have a variety of roles that they play in respect to their grandchildren. They are stress buffers, watchdogs, supporters, family historians, and much more. Children, often fearing punishment, do not want to go to their parents with their problems. Grandparents can indirectly teach children the lessons that they need to learn by joking and kidding with them, talking about growing up, giving advice, discussing problems, providing discipline, taking trips, teaching a skill or game, or talking about disagreements the child had with the parents...