You know what I keep hearing over and over again. That being a grandparent is God’s reward for not killing your own… It’s true, I suspect, as I spend many hours looking at my kids and wondering how on earth they have managed to survive my parenting. But you know what else I hear a lot? “Grandma is picking up Katie from school today” or “We’re going away and the kids are staying at Grandma’s house” or “The kids go to Nanny’s house once a week so I can get stuff done” or “when grandma and grandpa get back from their cruise their on kid duty for a week!”…. get the picture?
I feel out of place on the playground, like I am missing something all the other mothers have. Our kids have wonderful grandparents who are still alive and well and willing to help and do help. But I’ve lost MY mother the one who I’d turn to when I needed an extra set of hands at the last minute or a shoulder to cry on. Aunts, uncles and other grandparents are beautiful additions to a young family and I am so very thankful for all the amazing people we have supporting us in our life. I can’t deny however the presence of that hole and no matter what I do I can’t fill it up.
I often wonder, usually after one of the kids has declared that they miss grandma, what our kids will remember when they’re older. I know they’ll remember the feeling they had of being unconditionally loved, but will they remember the hugs? Will they remember washing dishes with her at the cottage? Or canoeing? Or running into her arms when she entered a room? Or her big smile in the morning when she saw them for the first time that day? And while I’m wondering all this about my kids’ memories I also wonder about my own memory. Will the ever-present memory of Arnold in my doorway telling me “Liz, she’s gone” eventually fade? Will I be able to sleep again without her lying in bed as my last memory before I fall asleep? Will there come a day when I’m able to open the fridge without expecting to see boxes of meds lined up? I’m challenged to forget.
Memory is a tricky thing. The new memories, the recent memories are all vivid and colorful and sad and really hard. The happy memories are muted, dull, hard to access. They’re there, or at least the feeling they give me is there. I’m slowly, intentionally trying to retrieve them. One at a time. By scrolling through pictures of happier days of hugs and walks, and holding hands, and of music, food, friends, and parties I’m slowly bringing colour back to the happier times. Some days the memories come back quickly and easily and I’m almost able to smile. Other times I work to reconstruct the day or moment in my head what made that day special? why did I take this picture? Slowly I pull out the colours of the happy moments from that day.
We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of us officially moving into moms house. We arrived just before Thanksgiving last year. I have an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hope when I think of that Thanksgiving. We had a big family dinner Mom held her two youngest granddaughters in her arms and they played puzzles. That moment held so much promise about the life we dreamed of having here. Dinners with family and grandparents playing with kids those are the reasons we moved here. The year obviously didn’t turn out the way we had hoped in many ways. But in other ways, it’s been exactly what we wanted. Grandfathers do pick up kids from school and take kids on PD days. Cousins do come over and play and dinners are had with family and friends. We have music and dance parties and hugs and walks and lots and lots of love.
The new memories are forming. The old are fading, and the older still are finding their colour again. Slowly we are finding balance in the emotional rollercoaster that is grief. There is so much to be thankful for, and as we enter this season of Thanksgiving I’m going to try to focus on that.