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family togetherness

Yesterday I took S to her Monday morning swimming lesson which is usually D’s domain. But he’s in the U.S. on business and so we enjoyed a girls’ day together.

When we arrived I noticed an older gentleman playing with two small girls in the splash pool. When we got to the lesson, he was sitting next to me with the older child in S’s class. I quickly surmised he was the grandfather, his daughter was there watching the lesson, and soon the grandmother also appeared. The family seemed to so happily enjoy each other that my mind quickly decided, “Grandparents must be here on vacation visiting the family.” And then from the conversation and the sheer detail exchanged with offers of, “I’ll take Maggie if it’s easier for you while you take Tilly to the party,” I discovered this is just their normal routine. Grandma and Grandpa are highly involved in their children’s lives. Everything about the picture seemed so ideal – constant smiles, relaxed, easy, and put-together. Like a magazine.

I was disturbed. Why the assumption that this was an occasional or even rare family event? There is so much tension with my parents that I have consciously avoided allowing them in the same room together since my brother’s high school graduation (that was 25 years ago). Not only that, I keep my visits with my parents expressly short. While my mother and I get along well and I could have a close relationship if geography and other factors didn’t get in the way, I cannot be around her husband who threatened to kill me when I was 24. And my HP father is syrupy sweet during our short visits, but he cannot be bothered to spend more than a couple of hours with me even during our visits back to America. He will likely never visit us in Australia. He has too much stuff to attend to.

From reading the stories from other Children of Hoarders, I don’t think many could brag of normal or easy relationships with their folks. Parents cross intimacy lines and become highly intrusive, or they wall themselves in with their stuff clinging to it rather than to their loved ones.

I sat at the pool thinking if S will have me, I will so gladly be that involved in her adult life. I would love to be there for her and her family. But can we break the cycle?