Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Mixed Blessings

Having my mother and stepfather visit, as they did last week, is always such a mixed blessing.

The pure blessing part is obvious: They are absolutely besotted with their grandchildren. My mother is wonderful with them, and my stepfather, well, if you knew him when I was a kid and then saw him with these kids, you’d be amazed. He always took care of me and my sister, make no mistake about that, but he was never an exceptionally—or even slightly—affectionate man. And involved? Um, no. Not in the slightest. I can think of two occasions where the two of us did anything without my mother along, and both occurred when I was an adult. Basically, while I love him and know he loves me, in his way, it’s nothing like the way he loves these kids. I was his stepchild, but they are his grandchildren. There’s no step away, no step aside. He reads to them, even sometimes plays with them. He even watched N all by himself for almost two hours one morning. This is a man who still asks my mother to pour him a glass of water, who can do almost nothing for himself. And yet he babysat for his grandson. Astonishing.

The other pure blessing part is that my mother comes swooping into my house expecting to be put to work. Her specialty is organization. My speciality is, well, not organization, that’s for sure. So after a week together, all the trouble spots in my house are gone. Everything has a place, and is in it...for now, at least. Plus, she taught me to crochet, which is another post. Soon.

The mixed part always comes when they leave. Having them here is a bit of a strain. My stepfather is getting old, and he’s always been a little set in his ways, and making him ‘comfortable’ takes a lot of bending on the part of everyone, including my little ones, who are not used to bending. So when they leave, there’s some relief. But there’s also some sadness, because I do miss them. And then there’s also a huge amount of guilt. Because if their leaving makes me a little sad, it devastates my kids, especially Em. In fact, we planned our Sunday (Father’s Day and their last day in town) specifically to keep Em distracted when they left. And at first I’d thought it had worked. We’d invited a bunch of our closest friends over with their kids, who are Em’s closest friends, and Baroy’d fired up the hot tub (we don’t have a pool, but we got us a hot tub because it’s Southern California, after all...) for the kids to “swim” in. And they were in there, splashing around and laughing it up, when my mom and stepdad came and said goodbye to Em. She looked sad, but seemed OK. My mother was congratulating herself as she got into her car on her astute planning. Except, not so much. Because by the time I got back to the backyard, Em was sitting in the water, just sobbing. Broke my heart. I had to gather her up and take her inside and hold her for a long time until she stopped. There’s nothing like having your child completely devastated by the departure of her grandparents to make you feel like the worst parent on the face of the earth for not moving closer to where they could see each other regularly. And that brand of guilt? She lingers. She lingers a long, long time.

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