My grandmother, a very lively 88 year old woman, is visiting for a while. She is living with one of my aunts, five hours west of us, so we don’t see her often. When she does come to visit, we do what we can to spent time with her. While she’s here, she stays with another of my aunts who lives locally.
There is a bit of an issue with hanging out with great-grandma though.
None of my father’s siblings get along with each other.
There are five of them, and we literally have to pass this poor old lady around like a bottle of cheap booze at a party. She gets brought to town and dropped off by Aunt#1 to stay with Aunt #2. At some point, Aunt#2 will drive her half an hour north to visit with Aunt #3 for a few days.
Aunt #1 and Aunt #2 have a pretty good relationship…for now, but neither of them are talking to Aunt #3 currently. My father, Brother #1, is on human terms with Aunt #2, but doesn’t talk to Aunt #1 or Aunt #3. My uncle, Brother #2, lives down in NYC and doesn’t talk to anyone except for a random phone call here and there.
My poor grandmother gets shuttled, ferried, and dropped off in places to be picked up by her kids who can’t stand one another for a myriad of reasons. As a result, she takes great joy on her grandkids and great grand-kids. So, when she comes to visit, we all try to gather up for dinner, usually at my parents’ place.
This past Saturday we did exactly that. We were minus my sister, who had to work, and my sister-in-law who opted to go visit her parents. My brother was there, as were my wife and I and the two boys.
Since we don’t see her that often, The Narrator is incredibly shy about her visits and will spend the first half-hour hiding behind anyone he can so he doesn’t have to talk to anyone. Eventually he warms up and becomes friendly, and his exuberance really does the old lady some good.
As much fun as it is to see her, I can’t help but be a little sad about the circumstances of her visits, especially this time of year.
When we were kids, we all used to gather at her place for Thanksgiving. Her tiny house played host to Sisters 1, 2, and sometimes 3. Brother 1 was always there, and occasionally, even Brother 2 would show up. There were years where all five of her children as well as numerous grandchildren packed that place so tightly that the we ended up having to play in the garage or outside if it wasn’t too cold. The tables used to groan with the weight of the food piled onto them. My uncles and older cousins spent the day watching football, the women agonized for hours over the meal.
That’s all gone now.
My grandmother, hostess of numerous successful and memorable Thanksgiving dinners, will now be part of a party of three with my Aunt and Uncle five hours away.
With the grandkids all grown, many of us with children of our own- her family’s fractured, made worse by the petty schisms and bickering. I’ll never see all of my aunts and uncles in on place again. It was a biting joke that we’d see them all at my grandmother’s funeral, but I’m not even sure that’ll be the case.
I know things change, and people grow older and drift, and I’m no fool to think that those large and amazing family gatherings would go on forever. I’m also not even remotely sad about getting to start our own traditions with the boys. And, to be truthful, I don’t know if my wife is ready for the sort of lunacy that used to come with having my entire extended family under one roof. So it’s not a total loss. I just wish that the growth and change weren’t accompanied by such malice.
I am not without a bit of blame for it though. Several years back my family went through a pretty significant tragedy, and as a result my parents were left without a home. My grandmother offered up her house since she was living with my aunt. For some reason, the aunts took offense to that and started a rivalry. Fed up with the idiocy, at one point I sent a message to two of the biggest offenders that basically said “What the fuck is wrong with you two?” ….and my Christmas card list got immediately shorter, and Aunts #1 and #3 don’t talk to me anymore either. Aunt #1 went so far as to make sure my grandmother ‘couldn’t get back to visit’ when Mini-Me was born, so she missed his birth and didn’t met him until he was a few months old. So yeah, I’m a player in the lunacy myself.
Dinner last week was great. The boys ate without a fight then went and played with my brother, who they don’t get to see that often either, his work schedule makes mine look like I’m in retirement. The food was excellent and plentiful, the conversation around the table was relaxed and full of the inside jokes and stories that accompany such a gathering…and by the time we left, it was late, but nobody minded.
I don’t know when I’ll see my grandmother again. Hell, my parents live seven miles from us and we don’t get a chance to see THEM that often either.
Still. As the seasons turn and start to gear towards a few major family-oriented holidays, it was a pretty good foot to start off on, even if I have no clue when we’ll take the next step.