I wake up for a lazy Saturday: coffee, a leisure run, breakfast.
The phone rings early.
“Hello? It’s Ted. You know, Ted? Your dad? I’m in town. I got here last night. I thought maybe we could meet today. You could bring the kids here. I’m busy til about 10:30 and then I have a break and then I am back, but there is a break in between….” I can’t even get in an answer of acknowledgment. The words are coming rapid-fire. It’s like they are punching out on a typewriter, scanning across my brain, and I’m supposed to simultaneously digest and comprehend. Also, I generally see my dad once a year and this is out of season.
I try to answer. “One of the kids is away this weekend. I’d only be coming with one kid.” I feel like I am yelling. He is already explaining times and where I should bring the kids. I don’t bother explaining again that one of my kids is away. There are more complex details. It’s like an overseas phone call when you used to have to pre-pay. You talk fast so that you don’t get cut off mid-thought.
I don’t want to go for a visit. I do it so my kids can see their grandfather. It’s about creating a neutral opportunity for my kids to have a relationship with him and not tainting that with my own opinions.
I go for a visit: me and one kid. It’s what I expect. Sometimes I silently cringe when he says things that are inappropriate or demeaning. He does this unknowingly but I spent most of my youth trying to explain this to him. He will change when he is willing to change; often I don’t think he sees a need. I also don’t need this in my life.
I watch my son’s reaction to all of this. Most of it he doesn’t understand. He looks at me quizzically and then gets bored and plays games on my phone. How much of a connection can you make in one hour? We talk about nothing. It doesn’t have to be deep and emotional conversation, but it’s a conversation that leaves me with nothing. It used to leave me feeling sad – as though I had expectations of a resolution that never came. Now, I use up my hour and head home with thoughts of the day ahead.
It’s strange how we spend so much time with a person and then can drift completely apart. Sometimes we outgrow a person and although we are linked genetically and hereditarily, our thoughts — the people we are — could be from two different places. We inhabit different cultures, we are from different tribes.
I’m learning that there is much less sadness now. But it’s not just deadness in its place. It’s just an acceptance that our connection is in the past, not the present. Even then it was shaky at best. I visit to show my kids who their grandfather is, not for my sake. My Self in this has outgrown the emotional battles, the self-esteem issues, the anger, and frustration. My Self has moved on, leaving sadness alone and drifting behind me. A wisp of smoke that remembers and then dissipates.