It was a busy few weeks … another unexpected but happily completed Centenarian quilt, one US Navy quilt and one US Army quilt, all finished in three weeks’ time. I did most of the work on my domestic Bernina sewing machine, which Rick bought for my birthday fifteen years ago, and daringly did a bit of free motion quilting on my new (second hand) Sweet Sixteen mid-arm sewing machine. Mid-week I made my semi-monthly visit to Atria, where I did a mini-trunk show of some of my small quilts, which pleased the residents. Many positives in such a short time, and all good reasons to be grateful for what I am able to do … what brings happiness to others, and so ultimately to me.
Yesterday, I spent the holiday with my youngest sister and her family, including her two grandchildren, ages one and almost three. The food was delicious, the company happy, and the weather cleared long enough to let the little ones spend a few minutes outdoors. I am blessed to have a sister nearby who invites me to share her grandchildren with her.
I have grandchildren … a boy and a girl in their early twenties, and also a girl and a boy under the age of two. The older two live more than a hundred and fifty miles north of me, and while I usually spend holidays with them and my daughter, weather is occasionally an obstacle, as it was yesterday. They had snow and slush and freezing rain, many vehicle accidents, and so I was asked not to risk the trip north as they would worry about me. The younger grandchildren live quite nearby, and while I would like to see them more often, I am careful not to push for their company or an invitation to their home. My friends are shocked that I don’t see these local little ones, but I own that absence, as I remember how Rick and I had spent every holiday dashing between both our parents’ homes in the early years of our marriage, and then spent every week day and many weekend evenings caring for our parents in their own homes, until ultimately they either came to live with us or were placed in a nursing home where we visited daily and nightly. I have to be patient and wait until the little ones want to visit me. Some say I am an enabler.
Rick and I never intended to put that caregiver expectation on our children. We were a formidable team when we were together … what he could do and what I could do was exponentially more when we could do things together. We were enough to meet each other’s needs, and the needs of many others. We were the local couple … Rick as an only child with a mother who developed blindness and breathing difficulties , and I the only one who stayed here in town with aging parents and their combined needs and illnesses, and so it logically fell to us to bear many of the care-giving duties. For several years we were maintaining all three homes … I don’t want to put that expectation on my younger child, who was married only weeks before Rick’s sudden death. In a matter of eight weeks, our son moved out of our home, and then my husband died. In a matter of eight weeks, I was alone for the first time in my life. And so I am seen as an enabler, as it is difficult for me to ask for assistance. Rick and I could handle anything, together. And I was determined to continue to handle things, alone.
Our son happens to live nearby; in these past three years he has become a husband, a son in law, and and a parent of two little ones. He works many hours as a firefighter/paramedic, and when he is not working I know he wants to be home with his wife and children. I want them to have the freedom to be a couple and a family, as our older daughter had, beginning her adult life in another state. It was logical that she would do that, as we had brought her up to believe in herself and to feel independent and capable, and she is all of that. We never expected her to be here weekly or even monthly sharing her children’s childhoods… and no one else expected that. Distance was accepted as a reason for occasional visits … and she did visit, with the children, for special occasions, and more recently, for moral and physical support to me in meeting my challenges here alone at home.
But it is different for our younger son … it is harder to explain to people why I haven’t seen our little ones on a regular basis. After Rick’s death, I was determined to learn to handle things on my own … or with outside help that I would find a way to afford … and it was hard … harder than anything I had tackled before in my life, harder than being a mother and a grandmother and a daughter and a wife and a graduate student and a teacher, simultaneously. At the end of my first year alone, I felt I had proven that I could continue on my own, but was sure I did not want to continue alone … and I did not want to hold on until I could no longer hold on … I did not want to become dependent on either of my children, nor on my grandchildren. And so that first December alone I tried to leave this life, leaving my property intact for my children and grandchildren to inherit without losing it to nursing home costs as we’d lost both our parents’ properties … I wanted to be with Rick … and I wanted my family to be at peace knowing I was with him, at peace. But I failed in that effort … friends intervened … and here I am.
So yes, I have grandchildren at a distance and grandchildren nearby … but I don’t see any of them on a regular basis, and I know my friends have a hard time understanding the why of that. I wish Rick were still here, and we would be enjoying our retirement, visiting our grandchildren without dominating their lives, and enjoying each other’s company for many more years. I wish we were able to travel as some of our friends are able to travel as devoted couples … I wish we could run our small shops together for another two decades, as I had anticipated and foolishly predicted in my first fiction books …
But as those wishes cannot be fulfilled, I now wish only that friends and family could understand that I am doing my best not to interfere in others’ lives … I’m using what I have to give to others who have needs … I wish everyone could see that I do love my children and grandchildren but I want to be a resource to them, not a weight on their present … not a limit on their future. I just wish to be understood, and accepted for who I am and can be, and for what I cannot be.
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