12/02/2014 09:30 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why My Grandparents Are My Best Friends

Jenna Amatulli

To some people, having a pair of octogenarians be your best friends at the mere age of 23 might be strange. In my world, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Coming from a close-knit Italian family, there's not exactly such a thing as privacy from parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. It was never uncommon to hear about someone's infected bunion at the dinner table or have an animated discussion about another person's failed marriage at birthday brunch. This no-holds-barred sort of dirty laundry chatter was -- and is -- routine. It's not what works for every family but it's what makes mine unique, to say the least, and it's why I have a very special relationship with my grandparents in particular.


My grandma is the quintessential matriarch of my family: bold, brazen, and unfailingly loving. She says anything she wants and is wholly unapologetic about who she is. My grandpa has beaten cancer, been in the army, and had open heart surgery twice -- the man is part bionic, I'm convinced. Though the years have softened his disposition -- as my mother won't let me forget -- the man I call my grandpa is an incredible storyteller, a sage relationship advisor, and the best breakfast companion one could ask for (seriously, the enjoyment the man gets from eating real eggs is a sight to see). These two people, so far from me in age but forever bound to me by genetics, are my best friends.

They weren't always my best friends. It wasn't until I was looking for a job and spent a few months out of work that I really bonded with my mother's parents. My grandparents provided the solace I so needed from the stress. Whether it was during little trips to get lunch or the afternoons when I brought over coffee and doughnuts, they distracted me from the misery of my own life and regaled me with tales of their long lives before me. They never hesitated to lend an ear or break out a pack of Oreos and some whipped cream when times got tough. The latter proved particularly helpful when they were there for me, yet again, after a bad breakup. They provided that unconditional affection and comfort that only grandparents can give.

And, in truth, my grandparents are not my best friends because they're my consistent champions. They're my best friends because they understand me in the way that I don't really understand me yet. They've known me since before I could form words and they know all facets of what has made me who I am. While my parents also know me in that vein, there is still a slight divide. My grandparents have lived more life than double what I've lived and, though much has changed since the days of their youth, they understand how hard it is to come into your own. They understand from a removed enough position that they're not pushing like a parent but rather, supportive like an observer. And let's face it: I'm much more likely to rebel against my parents than grandma and grandpa, it's just in my nature (sorry mom and dad, love ya!).

Having my grandparents be such major fixtures in my life is not something I take for granted -- it's why I'm writing here. I'm very lucky to have them, to know them, and have them know me. I wish everyone the love I have for my grandparents and if you can't have it with your own, then I wish you to have it with your grandchildren one day. Friends your own age are overrated anyway.