I need to write more generally about the summer but this is preying on my mind right now.
I missed a parental visit over the summer, having carefully set aside the designated days three months ago and then my father changing the date two weeks beforehand. This is absolutely unprecedented given how far in advance he likes to plan. I took great pleasure in repeating many times in that conversation that Monday and Tuesday were free as asked, but Saturday was not possible as I was already double booked.
1sis phoned me after the Saturday to tell me that she’d laid on a family gathering, much as she had done for our birthdays in May. It had gone well, she felt. My father then phoned me up and told me how absolutely marvellous 1sis for arranging these gatherings, as no one else was going to and it was nice to see relatives. I quite agree; she’s the only one who really puts in effort in keeping in touch.
My father then proceeds to tell me that while on his travels this visit he and my mother met up with my sons’ other grandmother. I hung up on her some eight years or so ago and haven’t spoken to her since. I knew my mother was in touch with her as my father told me, and I expressed anger that they had taken a year or more to mention it. Anyway, my parents told her everything they could about the boys, being helped from a recent visit from 1son who “was much more communicative about the boys than I was”. She understandably expressed dissatisfaction with having lost contact with three of her grandchildren.
So my father tells me that he’s decided that I ought to make up with her. Whatever has happened is in the past but it’s about time I made friends with her.
I was completely taken aback. There had been one brief conversation about this a few years ago when he had asked me why I wouldn’t apologise to her and I asked him why he assumed it was my fault. For him to come out so strongly was surprising. Even more surprising was that he said he didn’t expect an answer now but I could think about it and we could discuss it on his next visit. I was immediately filled with joy at the very thought.
A few days later 1sis comes to visit. She too started talking about family gatherings and saying how pleased she was that ex1, 1son’s father, could attend them. I said it was nice, but I’d prefer it if he wasn’t always invited. Why, she asked. The boys needed a father role model. I pointed out that he wasn’t their father and it sort of went downhill from there. I reminded her that we were actually divorced for a reason and that we got on a lot better because we didn’t meet up. Civility over the phone is so much easier. The last comment of that conversation was telling my sister that while I appreciated all that she did to bring the more remote members of the family together, she couldn’t actually keep the whole wider family together all by herself.
A few days later I get an email from 2sis, asking me whether it was a particularly bad argument. I sat there in more shock. Since our last visit in 2008 to my grandmother’s house in France which she bought after my grandmother’s death we hadn’t talked. The visits had been arranged by my parents to have the opportunity of extended time with all the grandchildren. It was a good plan, but as everyone got older the tensions mounted and we decided to stop. I had tried after our last visit to maintain some sort of dialogue with 2sis but she never responded and after a couple of years I just decided to give up on her. We hadn’t been friends for a very long time, if ever and I didn’t see the point in wasting time on a conversation that was never going to happen.
In the last six months or so she has communicated with me, via email or greeting card, probably 4 or 5 times. After a belated birthday email I decided it was time to respond. But what to say? I simply said that we’d barely talked for the last 10-15 years and that I’d given up on any relationship, so what were all these messages about. I wanted to say something, without get angry. The response came “How about saying that for the last 15 years we have both been busy with our families, we have had little in common and not much to share,” and how about being supportive to each other in the future. I looked at it, read it over and over again. I left it, not being able to think of anything intelligent to say. If we hadn’t managed to find time for each other in the last 15 years, then what was going to change?
I’ve never told her how much she hurt me in her constant put downs as she attempted to find her own place within the family. I was just pleased when they finally stopped. I think she’d had her third child by then and had possibly grown up a bit. But other than a brief span when she was a teenager we’ve never been close and have never been friends.
She’s asked to meet up at half term, when she’s here for a visit. I’m tempted to say yes as it would be hypocritical to refuse to meet, especially as she did ask to meet up last October half term when I refused as it was 2son’s first visit home. But I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to discuss my children with her (that’s a clear game of one upmanship); I don’t really want to tell her anything personal at all. I’d like to point out that I much prefer 1sis’s attempts to be “totally honest” (in 2sis’s words) even if it does lead to anger and shouts. At least I know how she feels and that she cares.
And that’s really my answer. “I much prefer1sis’s heated dialogues than the repression of any honest conversation with any other family members. But yes, let’s meet.” It will sit in my drafts folder for a day while I mull it over.
As for my children’s grandmother, they’re not interested in meeting a stranger and I’m not interested in discussing it with my father. That’s what I’ll tell him. She knows where I am if she wants to get in touch.
And now I’ll go and ring 1sis, just to say hello.