I’ll admit that part of the appeal of moving to SmallTown was to get a little breathing room. We had always lived in HomeTown and many family members depended on us. We were happy to help, and family is very important to both Dan and I. Unfortunately somewhere along the line it also meant our own family of four sacrificed. And that didn’t always sit well with me.
I helped my Grandpa when we lived in HomeTown. Dan and I bought his house when he decided it was too much to care for. He was in his mid-80s. My dad (his son) died a dozen years ago…about a year before we bought grandpa’s house. When my dad died, my grandpa and I grew closer. Later my mom remarried and moved out of town. My sister was still around, but grandpa relied more on me. I think there were probably many reasons. I am the oldest grandchild on that side of the family. I spent a good bit of time taking care of my father during his illness. I was a CNA in a nursing home for a few years when I was first married. And I was always accessible since I was home with the daycare. Roll all that together and I think it made him more comfortable calling me when he had a nosebleed or a tough cleaning job, or errands to run…whatever.
I also had my sister’s children in my daycare. I loved that. It was awesome to get to help her raise them a bit. We built a stronger bond as sisters during those years, too.
Dan’s parents live just a house away from our church there, so we saw them a lot. While Grace was at Sunday School we’d take Stanley over to grandma & grandpa’s for pancakes and we’d hang out until it was time to go get Grace. And then often times go back and visit more.
Every holiday we were there. Someone’s in the hospital? We’ll be right up. Need some help moving something? Sure. No, no, we didn’t have any plans. No problem. And honestly we were glad we could help. But there was really not much opportunity to step back and take a little break from all the extended family. Without even realizing it, that can wear on a family when there isn’t down time.
Moving here we discovered the joy of our own family unit. That first winter here will always be my favorite, I think. It was just us. No one knew us. No one came to visit. It was cold and snowy…and cozy. We played games and watched movies. We just got to be together…no phone ringing with requests. I relaxed some. I hadn’t realized how much I hadn’t relaxed before. And while I felt a little guilty (and truly missed my grandpa) I also smiled to think that my kids were getting more uninterrupted time with their mom.
And with everything there is a price. I’m paying that price tonight, and the price has been high this year. One of my very favorite relatives died this morning. Auntie Faye was my grandma’s sister. They were very close sisters, always having fun and laughing. When my grandma died when I was a sophomore in college, I got to know Auntie Faye better. We were pen pals off and on over the next 15 years. The last few, her arthritis has been too severe to write any more. I saw her last in March at my grandpa’s funeral. With all the family around we didn’t get much time to talk. I regret that. I hope she remembered how much I love her…how much she and my grandma influenced my world.
Not being so available when family needs me is hard…my price for living over 250 miles from any family. I’ll admit that sometimes, like with a birthday party or summer picnic, it is a small price to pay to be able to devote more of me to my own household. Other times, especially when my grandfather was sick and dying in March, the price is high. I don’t like it much then. He was 8 hours away. Since we only had one vehicle then, it was very hard to make a trip to see him. My family there assured me that he didn’t seem to know who was there or not. Since I really couldn’t be of comfort to him, I opted to stay put here. I still wrestle with that decision a little.
Auntie Faye’s funeral will be exactly a month before she would’ve turned 96. A good long life. I’m sure she’s already laughing with my grandma.
My schedule has been cleared and I’ll be leaving for the funeral on Tuesday. My chances to see extended family are getting slim, so I am anxious to see some family.