My relationship with Thomas seemed to grow more strained and distant with the birth of each of his three children. I was a grandmother who saw very little of her grandchildren. My idea of being a grandmother was to be actively involved in their lives. I saw myself sharing their hugs, smiles, and tears as we participated in fun activities and went on adventures together. I wanted to read to them, create culinary treats in the kitchen, dig in the garden, and take them exploring in the neighborhood, in the mountains, and around the world.
Instead, my feelings of shame and embarrassment forced me into silence when friends shared experiences with their grandchildren. If I were to mention that I had grandchildren, how would I ever answer the inevitable questions about when I last saw them, or what they were up to? Instead, I bit my lip in silence. There were only a few friends with whom I could speak openly.
These were difficult years. Thomas and I had numerous blow-up points throughout them, each involving long periods of little or no communication, followed by an effort to connect without ever resolving the previous blowup. After each incident, there was a period of withdrawal and refusal to communicate when I attempted to make contact.
Each time, when it seemed we were reconnecting, I would feel a strong bond with Thomas that I felt he reciprocated. During these rare times, we enjoyed some wonderful talks about his work, politics, and what was going on in the world. Our perspectives were compatible, and his sense of humor was delightful. I loved the depth of his thinking and the fact that our world views seemed to be similar. But then, out of nowhere, something would trigger Thomas’ distrust of me, and I always felt blindsided by the blowups that followed. Each upset was followed by intense anger, shouting, and withdrawal, and then our pattern would repeat.
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