Retirement: Time to get to know the grandkids

Ray LaBranche

Or is it? I retired five years ago, the first two years spent learning about my grandchildren. I have six grandkids, ages 5 to 19, and after moving back to Arizona, I spent the first two years learning about the sports they play, their educational accomplishments, their unbelievable music and the relationships they have with their parents.

Now I see them on a regular basis for birthdays, sports events, life-changing events and holidays. Every day spent with my family is a day my love continues to grow.

But I also want my grandkids to know me as more than just the “Old, Gray- Haired Man” that tells the same story multiple times. I would like them to know who I am and what life experiences I had throughout my past 40 years as an adult … immature, but an adult nonetheless.

I had the blessing of working for Hewlett Packard (HP) as a Solution Architect (SA) in pre-sales on both domestic and international opportunities. I’ve visited most states in the Union and multiple countries via on-site trips or internet meetings, totaling more than 130 countries. And I’ve had great vacations around the world.

In mid-2014, after being near the family for two years, I decided to start the process of sharing with my family the multiple cultures that I had experienced throughout my life. What would be the best way to share that experience and knowledge?

I decided the best form would be over dinner to discuss specific societies and cultures, which includes knowledge, religious beliefs, art, foods, morals, laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by humanity as a member of a specific society.

My first culture venture with the family was the culture of Ethiopia that I experienced in 2007. While working in New York City for eight months, including several weekends with other HP specialists, I worked directly with an SA who was born in Ethiopia, although his parents had moved him to New York City. On the third Sunday of every month, his parents, uncles and aunts, grandparents and nieces and nephews would all meet at his parents’ house for a traditional Ethiopian dinner. I had the privilege of attending several of the family dinners (including goat as the main course) and discussions about Ethiopian food and their unique culture.

My initial plan was to conduct one culture dinner every October until the end of time. However, I am 66 and looking at the 130 possible cultures that I experienced, I decided to add a second dinner in May of each year. Let’s hope I can get another 60 dinners completed.

Since October of 2014, I’ve completed these following culture dinners:

Quebec, Canada – Tourtiere and poutine

Philippines – Pork picadillo and polabak noodles

French Quarter of New Orleans – Crawfish etoufee and King Cake

Romania – Mezeluri and cioba de perioare

Venice, Italy – Sarda a saor and gamberrito risotto

Can you determine what I made as an appetizer, main course and dessert? Good Luck!

Besides sharing the local cuisine, I also teach my family the culture pertaining to the people of the chosen region.

In May 2017, we learned about Venice, Italy. The population of Italy is 61 million, and Venice has only 272,000 residents, but the culture of the Venetians is unlike the rest of Italy. I could do other regions of Italy, such as Rome and Florence, but Venice needed to be a separate culture because it’s so very unique.

Here is a short list of the subject matters that were part of the culture I experienced while on vacation in Venice, Italy, and what I shared with my family.

* Demographics of Venice Lagoon: Seven Islands

* The construction of the building above sea level, 10 Million pylons of trees

* Waste management of the water in the lagoon (don’t drink the water)

* Mother nature: two high tides/day and how that flushes the lagoon

* Venice is sinking and the MOSE system being constructed to prevent Venice from sinking

* Venice’s industries: fishing, tourism, glass blowing and handmade lace

* Venice kids’ games played outside, don’t fall into the lagoon

* Cost of living in Venice as it compares to Arizona

* Traveling around Venice without a car, truck, bus or scooter – there are no roads in Venice.

* Legends of Venice: (Casanova, Marco Polo, and The Lagoon Monster)

* Family Freud Game: I have two daughters, two sons-in-law and six grandkids. I pitted the two families against each other, and they needed to convert common English phrases from Italian to English. Stiff competition.

There is one rule on culture night: Everyone must at least try the food. If they don’t like the food, they can spit it into a napkin and throw it in the garbage, but they must try it. Grandpa will never get mad as long as they try the food.

Remember, a culture is not defined by a nation, but by its people. For example, the French Quarter of New Orleans is in America, but its people are from Acadia, Europe and Africa. Their culture is that of the Cajun and Creole people, which are similar but not the same.

I hope this article of my Family Culture Dinners helps you to consider how your grandchildren can get to know an important person within your family: You!

They may even learn something.

Grandpa LaBranche