Grandfamilies: Wreckage

messOne Big Mess. Trabuco Canyon Road. December 2010.

A quick way to learn how little you know is to begin sharing your thoughts on a topic with people. I’ve been writing about relationships in families that are both blended and extended for some time now, but a recent email from a reader sent me straight to my knees and humbled my heart.

She asked me how to hang on to her bonus grandlittles after her daughter-in-law and her son divorce.  It’s been a terrible marriage, she wrote. My son has endured physical abuse, screaming visits to his place of employment, being harangued and belittled in front of us, in front of her children–whom he has loved and parented for 11 years now. She told me that she has poured so much into those children over the past decade and the thought of losing them forever breaks her heart. How do I keep a relationship with them? she asked.  I can’t imagine life without them. 

Have you ever had a moment where you realized that someone was turning to you as the expert on an impossible topic? Reading her email, I felt her anguish. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that I was the straw she grasped at in desperation. It humbled me. It terrified me.

I wanted to have a healing, hopeful answer for her. I wanted to tell her, If your son gains visitation, ask him to share. I wanted to tell her, let your daughter-in-law know that you love her children and want to maintain a relationship with them. I wanted to tell her love conquers all.  

I also wanted to tell her, You are not entitled to a return on the investment you have made in these lives. It’s rotten, but it’s true. None of it is earned. It’s all a gift–it’s all grace.

I thought about attorneys. I thought about email, Facebook, texting, and all the other ways we have to keep in touch. I thought about the kids being teens now, and how soon they would become young adults and perhaps come looking for her. I didn’t tell her any of those things. 

Instead, I told her it sounds like a horrible, painful, awful situation, and I’m so sorry. I told her it’s hard to wait and see, but sometimes all we can do is wait and see. And pray. Please, please pray. So many hearts are wounded in these situations, I said. Pray for all of them. Pray for yourself, too. Especially, pray for yourself.

And me? I’m off to pray for wisdom.

rabbit conga

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

Psalm 25:5-9 (ESV)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.
Please join us.

Leave a Comment