I do not think it is an uncommon story that many Buddhists develop their spiritual leanings from their grandparents. The grandparent/grandchild bond is a special one – grandparents are wizened with knowledge without the day-to-day responsibilities of child-rearing, which seems like just the right combination to imbue an appreciation of peace and a proclivity to contentedness.
I also see grandparents as muddling that already terrible “heritage Buddhist” definition – where children grow up encountering the Dharma from their grandparents even through their own parents had rejected that very series of influences.
I am not part of that muddled category as neither my parents nor my grandparents are Buddhist. Still, I would not have ended up a Buddhist without the opportunity to know my grandparents. They taught me generosity, always being willing to give what they had simply for the reason that it was there to give. I learned patience, temperance, and that doing what is right for your family requires doing what is right by your family.
That being said, I only terrifiedly came out about my wacky religion to my grandparents this last year.
I had done much to keep it from them – not because I thought that they would really care, but because of how soul-crushing it would be if they were indeed deeply bothered.
On one occasion, when sitting around in cushiony chairs my grandmother shared that some aunt had told my grandmother’s sister that her son, who had recently been violently killed, was going to hell because he had not been baptized.
This caused me to go on a bit of a tirade.
Well into my rant my grandmother broke my ever beating drum-
“Well, you’re a Buddhist, John, what do Buddhists think about hell?”
I could not decide if the jig was up, or if it simply had never been down, like a weeble ever wobbling.
Though at the moment I was flustered I realized later that they had known for a very long time and that such a question was a kind and skillful way to let me know that their love was consistent and unending without getting tripped up in any such language.
After all, they had given me this life, how could they then be surprised?