The Love Between Grandmother and Grandson

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama just returned to the campaign trail after a brief 22-hour stop in Hawaii to visit his gravely ill 85-year-old grandmother.

According to news reports, Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham is recovering from a broken hip, in addition to battling a recurrence of cancer. She also suffers from osteoporosis and has had a corneal transplant. In explaining Obama’s sudden trip to his childhood home, the senator’s spokesperson noted that Dunham’s health had deteriorated “to the point where her situation is very serious.”

Yet, some in the media had the audacity to question whether Obama’s flight to Hawaii was prudent given that Election Day is less than two weeks away.

Are you kidding me?

Let me just note that I have no intention of turning this blog into an endorsement for either candidate. This post has nothing to do with politics; rather, my goal is to speak of the relationship some grandchildren share with their parent’s parents.

Barack Obama was essentially raised by his grandparents. Dunham and her late husband, Stanley, parented Obama from the time he was in elementary school until he left for college.

On the campaign trail, the senator has repeatedly credited Dunham for making him the man he is today. When accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama spoke warmly of the woman he affectionately called “Toot” short for Tutu (the Hawaiian word for grandma): “She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.”

Clearly the bond between grandmother and grandson is something that transcends words and Obama proved that this week by letting his actions speak louder than any speech could.

In making the trip to Hawaii Obama essentially dropped off the electoral map for two days. (By the way, the gasps from some reporters were audible when news broke that the Democratic candidate had decided to fly to his grandmother’s bedside.)

“How could he put his campaign on hold so close to Election Day?” asked reporters.

“It’s suicide,” noted another.

Give me a break.

I’m no political strategist, but with the polls leaning heavily in his favor, I highly doubt Obama’s decision to visit his beloved grandmother on her deathbed will have a major impact on his campaign.

What’s more, keep in mind that Obama knows what it is like to lose a close family member. The politician’s mother died of cancer in 1995 and in that case Obama admits that he failed to reach her bedside before she passed away.

“I want to make sure that I don’t make the same mistake twice,” the presidential hopeful told CBS News prior to departing for Hawaii.

After all that Dunham sacrificed for Obama, I would say a flight home is the least that he could do for her. Given that a good part of his platform has been family first, it would have appeared hypocritical if he hadn’t travelled to Hawaii. Think about it; how would it look if Obama showed up to his grandmother’s funeral without having carved out time to see her one more time before she died?

Perhaps, my view of the events is a bit skewed since I too grew up in Hawaii and shared an extremely close bond with my maternal grandparents. We would all like to say that we would make whatever sacrifice it took to see out loved ones one final time, but talk is cheap. The proof is in your actions.

Will Dunham live to see her grandson through the election and witness history being made? We’ll find out in about 10 days. In the meantime, I sure hope that grandmother and grandson made the most of their time together… as short as it might have been.

Related Articles:

“Too Young” Grandma Gets Shafted at Toy Store

A Father’s Touching Tribute to His Infant Son

Has Becoming a Parent Made You a Better Person?

Can You Miss Your Kids Too Much?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.

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