During the last few weeks, I have been given the opportunity to think about difficult life events. I say “given” because I realize now that this time of introspection has been a gift.
My grandmother, who is 97 years old, has been greatly challenged and thereby, challenging. Her poor and deteriorating hearing, eyesight and memory are magnifying her myriad difficulties in daily living. It has been so sad watching her decline emotionally, to the point where she is lashing out at those who love and care for her the most. I am left grieving the loss of the grandma that I knew, and the fear that this is how I too may spend the last few years of my life. I am looking at my grandmother’s relationship with my mother, my husband’s with his mother, my friends’ with their parents, etc. And I feel defeated. I have been asking myself what it is all for. We love our children with more intensity that we could ever have imagined. We jump through hoops, fall down in total exhaustion and keep jumping for them. And in what seems like a blink of an eye, they leave for college, work, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends, adventures, travel, seeking more and different than we can give. Eventually, they will come back, so to speak, and we will spend holidays and maybe even vacations with them and their spouses and children. And if we don’t screw it up by being too overbearing, interfering, opinionated, etc., we may be well loved and cared for by our children and grandchildren when we are old and needy.
What we want more than anything though, is to hold onto our children while they are still young enough to need us. Those with adult children who no longer live at home all say that we should appreciate the time that we have with our children. It goes by too quickly, and these are the best years of our lives, they say. And I believe them. I think about it all the time. I grieve the loss that is out there, waiting for me. I am anticipating the sadness and devastation that will plague me when my children have moved on.
I lost the grandmother that she once was, and I know I will lose my children as they are now, and once were. But thankfully, I have been reminded that I do not want to hold on too tight. I ran into a friend last week. She was enjoying a rare Saturday evening out with her husband. My husband and I were happy to sit down in a beautiful bar for wine, dinner, and light conversation with another couple. I have gotten to know this friend relatively recently, but feel a strong connection; the kind of connection that wakes us up, invigorates us, the kind we hold dear. She and her husband have three beautiful children. I see them at the bus stop every day. I am watching them grow, knowing I too will cry when her youngest goes on the bus for the first time, a couple of years from now.
He will go, proudly, with his big sister, to school. And then my friend will put her middle child on his school bus, and wave goodbye. But he won’t be going with his sister and brother to school. He goes to a different school, the one that is right for him. He is learning and growing and he is beautiful. And my friend is at her most beautiful when she talks about him; how he inspires her, how his sister and brother love and care for him, and how much he has taught them. And she gets him forever. She can hold onto him, and he will always need her. But its not what she wants for him. I know that she would give her life for him to walk out the door, fall in love, move away, call irregularly, forget her birthday, argue with his dad, spend too much time with his wife’s family, etc. And so he is teaching me too. He is reminding me, through his mom, that the pain and the changes in children and in families are okay. So I will take my grandmother for the feisty, difficult woman that she has become, and I will be thankful that she was able to make her own way, build a family, mistakes and all. I will try to embrace my children’s independence and path that will take them away from me. I will try not to wish for them to stay. And if I forget, I can to look to my friend and her beautiful boy to remind me.