the strange thing about estrangement…

I may have spoken before about how close I am with my family, and that would be the truth, mostly.

My husband and I, we’re very close. It’s not uncommon for people to marvel at, gag at, be suspicious of or disbelieve our saccharine sweetness. Or our hot tempers. We have passion, in our agreements and disagreements, but the love, the respect, the adoration: never wavers.

We’re obviously very involved and close with K, she is 5 after all and still accepts us in her life as the supreme all knowing parents that we are, and that will likely continue until the time she turns 7 or 8, at which point anything coming out of our mouths will probably be discounted as ageist propaganda.

My mom and dad, though geographically far, couldn’t be closer to our hearts. Or my cellphone.

My brother and his significant other live here in Portland too, and though we are all busy people and we don’t see them as often as we would sometimes like, they are present and involved in our lives, especially in K’s.

So it may seem odd that I haven’t had a relationship with my mom’s parents for 16 years. That is to say I haven’t seen them in 16 years. I don’t know that I ever really had a relationship with them. My brother and I were not the favorite grandchildren, not by a long shot. A big part of the problem is my grandmother’s beliefs. I’ll just say that they in no way come anywhere near my own. And they never have. There are things she holds to be true and dear that can’t be put off as a generational difference. There are things she has said and done that I can not find it in my heart to accept. I will not expose my daughter to her brand of thinking.

As for my grandfather, I liked him a lot when I was really little, but when I got a little older and started seeing things for what they were I realized I had no idea who he was, and neither did he. He served my grandmother in all ways, good, bad and very ugly (plus he had a big thing for table manners and would poke you with a fork if you didn’t keep your elbows off the table).

But every time something happens with them, every time their health fails, a new illness is diagnosed, a lifestyle change must be made: I hear about it. I get the info. Someone always lets me know what’s going on.

Today I wasn’t prepared to hear news about my grandfather.

I sat down to eat a late lunch and perhaps write a few lines to all of you, but first I checked my e-mail. An older account. One few use. I only check it once a day at best. In it was a message from my mom, she forwarded an e-mail from my grandfather (in all caps, that’s how he types). It was titled: NEWS.

He has to start undergoing radiation therapy for a spot on his ear. 5 weeks of it.

It’s just a spot. It’s just his ear. It’s just 5 weeks. Everything should be okay.

But still, have I done the right thing by not having them in my life? Do I have to feel this doubt, this sadness, this numbed form of empathy?

Am I only upset in the name of family?

13 thoughts on “the strange thing about estrangement…

  1. mielikki says:

    ah,oh, ouchI know that feeling. My paternal grandfather was someone my Dad decided to distance himself from, and us as well. The other sisters met him once. I never did, and when he died, I had the same feeling. Detached sorrow. But you have to stand by what you believe, and protect your own. Would you want K poked with the proverbial fork? I think not.

  2. Scruffy Mummy says:

    I’m a great believer in being able to conciously choose who we want in our family – if someone in our biological family steps all over our beliefs and values we don’t have to have a relationship with them. I said to a family member who was being incredibly racist while we were in a restaurant ‘You know, when I was a child, I had to sit here and put up with your BS. Now I’m an adult and I can walk out and leave you if you don’t shut up’. It was a great feeling to realise that.But that doesn’t mean we won’t be sad or mourn that the relationship is no longer a part of our lives. I sometimes feel sad for the relationship that never was or that could have been

  3. Mel says:

    I think, reviewing various aging family members of my own with whom I do not associate, the sadness and/or angst you feel about this may be a sense of loss – because they aren’t very nice or sympathetic people, you are missing out on what could have been a great relationship. If they weren’t people you couldn’t relate to, that is.So yeah. Maybe it’s a “what could have been” sadness, and that’s why it feels numbed.

  4. Daveman says:

    Everybody has belly buttons.., erm.., I mean.. opinions are like belly buttons – everybody has one.Unless your grandparents are into something like passing snakes around in the church house or worshiping rat droppings – I myself would suggest visiting them. If you haven’t seen them in major years – it could be they have changed. If not, just take them with a grain of salt.If they start getting too weird – just politely think of some reason to leave, give them hugs and leave.If they bring out the snakes however – skip the hugs and run like crazy!Maybe they are strange, but I bet they would love to see you. I’m kind of strange – and you communicate with me… Uhm.., well.., very strange but thats beside the point. LOLTry it once, at least. They wont be around forever, and really – should K at least meet them before they are gone? She needs memories too. We learn about life from people we meet, the good, the bad and the really ugly relatives with all kinds of strange body functions and fungal growths… eeew!

  5. For the Love... says:

    I have one surviving grandparent, my Dad’s mother. She is as mean as a snake, always has been. Age seems to have made her worse…At Christmas my 7yo was a little slow shutting a door, she said “Shut the door you stupid boy.” This was just the last straw. I may feel guilt when she is gone, but I suspect I will get over it. I have a very large and very close family, she is just not part of it anymore.Oh, the joys is right, this has to come from you…Good luck.

  6. Bubblewench says:

    OTJ is right, but knowing some of this history before reading the post… I do think you are mourning what never was or never could be. I am very sorry to hear this is happening, I know you will care and worry because, bottom line, he is still family, and his is your mom’s father, and you need to be there for her more then anything. She is who matters in this.

  7. Mom says:

    C.D. They love you, they just don’t understand you anymore then you understand them. Ofcourse, they don’t get me either. Never have. I think they would love to see you, but that is your choice. The last time I talked to Mom she asked about you, but I’m was in favor then, I sent her a Mothers Day gift. Aunt L and Aunt S and I believe that she loves us as much as she can, but she has always come first. She dosen’t get life anyother way. It is what it is. Growing up she was always on the out with someone. I used to wonder shy. But I was looking through a childs love. You guys have always come first and always will. I love that we kove each other. Mom

  8. ImPerceptible says:

    I had the same dilema not too long ago. I chose to not go see my fathers mother. I never considered taking my children to see her. I don’t know if it was the right choice but I am sure that either way I wouldn’t have have taken anything good away from it. I do wish that we could have a real relationship but that was not to be. I try to focus on all the good relationships I do have; if they contributed to my DNA structure or not.

  9. CamiKaos says:

    Thank you all. I think if it were 6 years ago before I found out I was pregnant with K this would be an easier question to answer. Honestly I know the answer, it’s just tough and being right isn’t always fun. And being wrong isn’t always so bad.

  10. Kami says:

    Well, I’ve been on the other end of your dilema. As “the gay one” in the family, a few of the members didn’t want to speak to me because of it. It hurt me tremendously. But, I respect that they weren’t able to deal. I would just say this…it’s never too late and regret is a bitch.

  11. sybil law says:

    Only you can answer any of those questions, but I am sorry to hear of it. You’re too loyal a person to not feel some guilt over it. And apprehension. And concern.Which makes you great. :)

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