Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lift up your spirit with a song, it's family time, it's family time

When I was growing up, my grandparents were people I saw once or twice a year, at most.  Meaning that for my parents, their parents were people they saw once or twice a year, at most.

That was the paradigm.  That was our normal.  And it was the normal of just about everyone I grew up with, as they were all similarly situated - we were overseas, living exciting and exotic lives in exciting and exotic faraway places.  The exciting and the exotic took the place of the familiar.

When I was younger, it didn't occur to me that this experience wasn't everyone's experience. That it wasn't normal and natural for families to scatter as the children reached adulthood.  That it wasn't normal and natural to see your grandparents only sporadically.

As much as I love the way I grew up, as much as I cherished the exciting and exotic - as much as treating the exciting and exotic as the normal and ordinary has shaped so much of who I am - I am realizing how much I miss the familiar.

Emotionally, I feel extraordinarily close to my family.  I talk to my mother just about every day.  I communicate with my brothers regularly.  In my heart, they are a huge part of me.  I have friends who openly yearn for the kind of relationship with their mothers that I have with mine.  They talk about wanting to be adopted by my family, and I think they are joking, but a part of them wants it not to be a joke.

But like my parents in their adult lives, I don't actually get to be with my parents or my brothers very often.  None of us live in the same city.  My parents getting to see their children - or their grandchildren, who, let's face it, are the real draw these days - is the exception rather than the rule.  No regular sleepovers at Mimi and Papa's house.  No growing up with their cousins on a day to day basis.

Fortunately, my parents have the means and the good health to visit relatively frequently.  And we have our annual beach and Thanksgiving get-togethers.  But increasingly, as we all get older, it doesn't feel like enough.  I feel like I have cheated myself in choosing the life I chose.  Like I cheated my children.  But I can't leave now.

So we have our visits every few months.  My parents come and we spend time together.  The kids sleep over at their hotel and have fun swimming in the hotel pool and riding up and down the elevator and running up and down the halls.  We do fun things like go to the zoo or go to the mountains or go to the rodeo at the National Western Stock Show.  I feel safe and protected, enveloped in the love of the people who care about me more than anyone else.

But it's never long enough.  After two or three days, our chests tighten and we have to say goodbye again for a few months.  The children hide rather than give the hugs and kisses that mean that they won't see Mimi and Papa again for awhile.

And I resume the mantle of full adulthood once again, feeling like I'm taking care of everyone but without anyone to take care of me when I feel like need a break.  It's a cold and lonely island, until the next time the bosom of the family can envelop me once again, even for just a few days.

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