Two years ago, I posted a blog about a runaway grandpa. It was a tale of family woe: In his 75th year--and 50th year of marriage--a retired, New England professor ran off to California to live with a woman he'd been wooing for a year. Not only did his wife feel abandoned, so did the grown children, both of whom were married with children of their own, who wondered how their pop-pop had disappeared. Both grown children decided to shut their father out of their lives--they refused to open his emails or answer his phone calls.
Now he's back. His wife has been more forgiving and welcoming than his children. But at least one grandchild has risen to the challenge of re-knitting the family back together again. The 9-year-old, who lives in Texas with his parents, was celebrating his birthday when Pop-Pop and Grannie came to visit--the first visit since pop-pop's return to the family. Although the daughter remained cool, the grandson set set out his druthers for celebrating his birthday--lunch at the tiny restaurant at the tiny airport near his home. And so they went. From their seat, they could see small planes land, gas up and fly out. "He knew," says the grannie of her grandson, "that his pop-pop loves airplanes and this was his way of making his grandfather feel welcome." It helped cut the ice since there were lots of old airplanes to watch and talk about--which, at the time, beat trying to talk around more pressing family issues.
Things have gone less well with the son who lives in the same city as pop-pop and grannie. The son is still angry at his father. He has told his mother not to call his house. "He told me it was because he might pick it up and it might be his dad and he's not going to talk to him right now," the grannie reports. The reason notwithstanding, it has hurt her feelings "to have a son say 'Don't call me.' It cuts me off from my grandchildren."
Feelings of betrayal and anger run deep. We may think--worry, fret, be annoyed--that we're no longer the central players in of our family's life. Our grown children are. And with a sentence--"don't call me"--they can push us to the farthest edges of the periphery. Our actions may not be central, but they still pack a punch. And not necessarily in a good way.