I have two sons in their mid twenties. Talking about my sons is such a mixed blessing. Things got really tangled in my younger years, and I made a lot of really bad choices when it came to my sons and partners. I shaped many years and most life decisions around sons I didn't raise more than part-time. Talking of the boys is bittersweet, breaths filled with regret and joy. The pain hasn't eased over the years. And now there's the absence of grandchildren added to the burden.
911 was yesterday. Every year this time I remember the last year I lived with my children. The dot coms had crashed and I was unemployed. That summer my eldest son moved back to Ar with his dad. I thought things were fine when I put him on the plane, but it was three years before he spoke to me again. My son enrolled for his senior year, 911 came, and he enlisted instead of going to college.
I didn't see my eldest son again after he flew to Ar until he got married. His drill sergeant, his soon-to-be wife, his mother-in-law, hounded him into calling. We had a seven day notice for a 16 hour cross country trip. We made it. We weren't allowed to sit on his side of the church, nor was I acknowledged as his mother. His step mother's name was on school records, military records, etc. She lit the unity candle with the bride's mother while I watched.
I finally held my granddaughter when she was 6 weeks old. The Marine was headed to Iraq and we spent two days in a hotel nearby so we could visit. (Of course, lesbians cannot stay in his home.) As we getting ready to leave, I held Beauty and couldn't stop the tears. I knew I'd never hold her again. I knew it.
The Marine didn't open mail from his wife while he was in Iraq, let alone from me. When he got home, he didn't want to see me. In fact, I didn't see him or the grandchildren again until my youngest son's wedding. I've never held my grandson. My granddaughter didn't know who I was.
I've written this and deleted it several times. The starkness of the story, the omitted details, the care I take when making something so painful so public strikes me as I reread. So many times I've wished I could spend an afternoon talking with my sons about those years, but neither is inclined to do so.
I'm at that stage in my life where I'm surrounded by people my age talking about grandchildren. Such a bittersweet topic. Some days I dodge the conversation. Other days I acknowledge I have grandchildren and then change the topic. I think the hardest part can be the inept way people don't hear the truth of the story. My eldest son doesn't speak to me. I don't see my grandchildren. They don't know who I am.
Instead of "that sucks" I get "blood is thicker than water" and other platitudes. And platitudes aren't true. I was adopted by my step-father and that is my daddy. My sperm doner was given several chances, and demonstrated how toxic he is. I know all about cutoffs, because I've cut him off completely. As my son has cut me off. No, I don't think I'm toxic. But my son does. I don't fit his conservative view of the world. I make things very messy and he doesn't want anything to do with it.
On the upside, not that I'm much in a mood for the upside in the midst of these darker emotions, The Enlightened One, my younger son, did see to it that Cameron and I were included in the wedding, that we had honored spaces in their lives, and we were acknowledged. I have no doubt that when the grandchildren come from him and his wife, they will know who we are.
I haven't spent a holiday or birthday with either of my sons since 2001. Indeed, I've only seen either of them a few times. Their rituals and routines are not with me, which I grieve. Nevertheless, I am headed to Ar to see my parents the first week of October and I will be staying at my youngest's son's home. Cameron is staying home to care for animals and attend class.