Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the path (xiii)

My mother was 38-years-old when I was born and my father was 40. In today's world, those ages wouldn't be considered unusual since a lot of people are holding off until they've established their careers before they start their families.

In today's world, people who are having children in their 20's are considered young. Babies themselves. But that's not the way it was when I was younger. And I was always acutely aware that my parents were among the oldest.

Considering my mother was the youngest of nine and her parents were in their 30's and 40's when she was born, they were quite a bit older by the time I arrived on the scene. I was their 40th grandchild and although I have memories of them both, I never really felt like I had an opportunity to know them. They passed away when I was five-years-old, so my memories are foggy and fleeting. My 89-year old grandmother, Margaret, died on January 1 and my 96-year old grandfather, Francis, decided that he didn't want to live without her, so he died of a broken heart five days later. I remember the funerals.

Mostly, I remember the stunned amazement over what had just happened.

I never really knew my paternal grandparents, since they weren't within a close proximity of us. I do remember visiting with them, though. I remember my white-haired grandpa, Francis, whom my father has a remarkable resemblance to, now. I also remember my incredibly sweet little nana, Alice, who loved to crochet sock slippers out of multi-colored yarn and give them away as Christmas presents. I also remember visiting them, when I was a very small child, and staring at the hen and chicken plants in their tiny garden, and wondering where that name came from? Could they actually lay eggs?

Our parents are spread far and wide. But I do wonder, what it would be like if we lived closer? What might it be like to drop in for Sunday dinner, or swing by to visit for an hour? How great would it be if they could attend a school performance, like the scores of other grandparents that are always in the audience, or on the sidelines, proudly holding up their camcorders?

Our children are now at an age, where they are definitely forming memories that will last them a lifetime and I want for them to have vivid memories of their grandparents.

Charlie's dad is doing great. And my dad is happy and in very capable hands. Every so often, I do feel guilty that he is not living with his family, but I don't think he'd want to. Unless we were on a diesel boat, motoring around Argentina.

Charlie's mom passed away twenty-years ago next month (?!), but our children know Charlie's dad, Alex, and his wife, Kathleen. Alex and Kathleen live in Arizona and it's difficult to see them now that we're on the opposite side of the country. But when we were in California, we would visit at least twice a year. Our children have heard countless stories about their grandfather, from their dad. One of their favorites, that they'll now recite, comes up whenever they see a trailer "pushing" a vehicle. According to legend, that's what Charlie's dad would tell always tell him, whenever they'd see an RV being pulled by a vehicle.

Charlie still laughs like a seven-year-old whenever we see one on the road. "Look at that, kids!! That trailer … HA HA HA … is pushing that car!!" Snort!! "How can it do that?! Who is driving the TRAILER?!"

My father lives in Massachusetts in an assisted-living facility. He was at the hospital with me when our triplets were born and has seen a half dozen times since. Our children know that Grampy is my father. Even though he quacks like a duck and tries to reach out and tickle them, they know that he gets nervous around children. My children are confused why my mother and father aren't still together and have asked me more than once if maybe they should just go to a church and get married, again? Since their grandmother isn't into polygamy, I don't see that as being an option.

My mother lives in South Carolina with her husband, Jim. But by virtue of the relationship that exists between mothers and daughters, my mother has been an integral part of our children's lives since even before they were born. Mom helped administer fertility shots in my hip when Charlie would go away on business trips, because I couldn't do it by myself. To this day, Mom and I talk at least once a week and we visit with each other at least two weeks a year.

I've always felt a draw to my mother. From the time I was an eight-year-old child and my mother tried to put me on a plane back to Massachusetts to live with my father and I declared, "I'm staying with you because you need me and I need you!"

(Mom's going to read this and say "Oh for heaven's sake, go live your own life!!")

(But I know the truth.)

I want for our children to know mom and I want mom to know them. My mother has never really had that opportunity with any of her 16 grandchildren, and it would be nice if she had it now. It would be so nice to drop in and help her rearrange her furniture. Or drive her home from the optometrist when she's had her eyes dilated. To be close enough to have the option.

For more than 20-years, I've been away from my mom and the reality is, I'd like to be closer. But not so close that we'd drive each other completely nuts.

Because that's a reality, too.