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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
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Publication Date______________

THE WAY IT IS - [Parenting]
[written Summer, 1980]
by Bee Baxter Meyer

 

I am a divorced grandmother.

Seven years ago my daughter and her husband entered the twilight zone of what had seemed to be a fairly good marriage.

As midwives to the legal miscarriage of the marriage, their lawyers retained their fraternal relationship, while surgically removing any warm or human feelings from the Party of the First Part and the Party of the Second Part.

As the legal hassle intensified, the attorneys' fees bloated and the protagonists tossed on their separate beds of nails, their two sons, then seven and nine, began learning a new game:

Don't tell Dad what Mom says or don't tell Mom what Dad says, unless of course we decide it's better for our own split-shirt life styles to play one against the other.

During such preliminary jousting, where do grandparents come in? They don't. They suffer in attempted silence.

In my acceptance of the need to remain invisible, although anguished with hope that they'd somehow reknit their ravelled relationship and the family would again be whole, I maintained a holding position.

I held myself in readiness for the hot-line calls from my daughter. I held my counsel. I almost literally held my tongue, once biting it to keep quiet.

I made one major error during that pre-divorce winter. With my Mel's help, I wrote a letter pleading for their consideration of the beautiful kids who loved them both.

This was the only [time] during the divorce proceedings they both agreed. They told their father and me to mind our own damned business. We did. Quickly.

Five years later, with many good grandparenting summer hours meanwhile in Maine, came another split and to the parents and grandparents, another type of loss.

Our daughter, having by this time completed her undergraduate university credits deferred when she worked to help her husband earn his Ph.D. in micro-biology, decided to build her own independent life and career, by attending graduate school in Michigan.

Older son, Jonathan, had for two or more years before that, been asking to live with his father, his father's new wife -- a fine woman, wife and good friend to Jon...and by that time, a delightful baby step-sister.

John remained in New Jersey with his father's new family. My daughter Noel took her younger son, Danny, with her to Ann Arbor.

And once again, their grandfather and I were back to a new type of split grandparenting.

+++++

Now, in this summer, although I have lost my dearest friend and companion, the boy's grandfather in a new and remarkable way I have been given back our No. 1 grandson.

During the first two days of his first visit alone with me, Jonny and I, verbally similar, sparred and probed for understandings and meanings, each of us denying our own defensiveness.

Jon was verbally super-defensive about his cherished father, stepmother and (now) two little stepsisters.

I, although assuring him of my total objectivity, lied. I winced at any word or attitude which might underestimate or hurt his mother, my adored older daughter.

On our third day together, we had a great outpouring, honestly stated our hurts, defenses and angers, fell into each other's arms, cried, laughed and became the grandma/grandson unit we once had been.

Jonny is woven through me. This interweaving began with his birth and went through his little boyhood. I have always before me the memory of his great dark eyes looking up, excited at our walks and games and stories. We sun-danced on the winter streets of Cedar Grove, N.J., singing out: "Come sun, come sun, toast me, toast me brown!"

And so it came to pass...the miracle of our togetherness.

The morning he left a few weeks ago, to return to his last year of high school and his father's loving family, Jonny said, "As long as I live, Grandma Bee, you will be alive in me."

+++++

I am still a divorced grandmother.

But I have been learning that the dread disease of divorce need not contaminate all family members. Each of us, ultimately, must find his/her own love connection and work at it.

How, after all, could I have borne to lose a boy who responded as Jonny did, the day he, his little brother and I, wandered through the historic hillside cemetery in S. Waterford and I spoke simply and carefully to them of the naturalness of death as the debt of life.

"Grandma," Jonathan said curiosly, his voice tight and high, his body trembling...."Grandma, if you die I'll kill you!"

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