A number of posts on my blog deal with family. In particular, these blog posts discuss my mother and grandmother. They were the loves of my life. I grew up with my mother’s family. I didn’t get to see my father’s family as often. In fact, it’s years between visits. Fortunately, there’s Facebook and I’m able to keep in touch with more of them now that ever before.
So, I jumped at the opportunity to travel to North Carolina to celebrate my grandmother’s 89th birthday with the family. Every year, they have a fish fry to celebrate two birthdays – my grandmother’s and my aunt’s. The last one I attended was about 9 years ago. I was prevented from going in other years because of work. Well, I’m not working now, so I decided to make the drive. It’s been a short trip, but I’m glad I made it.
We’re all getting older. It’s hard to know how many more birthdays, Christmases…or fish fries…we have left. I’m not working right now. I have the time. I have the means. I’m coming back in the spring.
I have 3 nieces and a nephew. We barely know each other. I’m not happy with that. I need to see them more often and get to know them. Oh, sure, there’s Facebook. I’m connected with my oldest niece and my sister-in-law, so I get to learn about what the kids are doing and how they’re doing. But it’s not the same, you know? I need to find a way to be “Aunt Carleen” in action, not just in name. I’m not quite sure how I’ll be able to make that happen, but I’m going to try.
Apart from making my grandmother very happy that I was there to celebrate her birthday, there were a couple of neat highlights to my day.
I got to see and hang out with my dad. This is the first time I’ve seen him since that last fish fry 9 years ago. When I return in the spring, I’ll go down to Myrtle Beach and spend some time with him. We had some really nice conversations today. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that.
I also got to see the nieces and nephew. It’s the first time I’ve seen them since the summer of 2011 when my mother and I stopped in North Carolina on our way home from GCLS. Before that, I saw them at that fish fry 9 years ago. So, this is the third time I’ve seen two of the nieces and the nephew. My oldest niece is 21 (!!) and I’ve seen her just one other time – when she was about a year and a half and thought an empty 2-liter soda bottle was the best toy ever. Like I said earlier, thank goodness for Facebook. Otherwise, I’d really be disconnected from those kids.
My father has never been involved in his grand\children’s lives. Having not really been a part of the family in North Carolina, I don’t know the ins-and-outs of why there’s been that disconnect. I know that most of that is my father. He’s a complicated man. (Understatement, really.) Even our relationship has always been complicated. But he’s my father and – despite the strange intricacies of our relationship – I love him. I made sure to point out his grandkids to him and told him to reach out to them, talk to them. He said that he didn’t think they would want him to. But, even without really knowing those kids, I had faith in them and told him to give it a try – he might be surprised. So, even as awkward as it might have seemed, Dad turned on a bit of his charm and interacted with the kids. It made me feel really good to see all of them give him a hug before leaving for the day. And I could tell that he really enjoyed those hugs. He may not admit it, but I know my dad. He liked it. I don’t know how the kids felt about it, but I truly hope that they were glad their grandfather took some time to interact with them. I hope they realize that he’s not a bad man…just a very complicated man.
No, they’re not all going to become the best of friends – like I was with my mom and grandmother – but they’ve made a connection. No matter how tenuous that connection might be, at least it’s there.