Out of the blue, my daughter recently asked “Mommy, who is your Daddy?” “My Daddy is Grandpa”, I said. “Do you remember him? We visited him in the desert.” “No, Mommy. Can we go to the desert again, so I can remember him?”
This breaks my heart.
Growing up, I always had a close relationship with my Dad. We are kindred spirits in many ways, and he has had a big influence on the shape of my life.
When I was 14, my parents separated, and my Dad moved to San Francisco. I loved visiting him there and experiencing the world beyond my suburban life – touring the city together while he listened, offered perspective and treated me like the adult I was becoming. After my friend backed out of our planned graduation trip to France – my first overseas experience – my Dad encouraged me to go by myself. Buoyed by his confidence, I took the leap…and thus began my traveling life.
Over the years he expressed only enthusiasm for my far-flung travel plans and showed up to philosophize over wine in Paris and fresh roasted coffee in Eritrea. Between adventures (and sometimes jobs), his home was a welcoming safe haven.
I always thought my Dad would make a wonderful grandfather. He is a gifted storyteller, seems to know everything about everything and even has a Santa Claus look about him – white hair, smiling eyes and a jovial laugh.
However, until now he has played a very hands-off role in my children’s lives.
In the years after the twins were born, we visited each other a handful of times. As a new mom, I had less time for keeping in touch – and my adventure tales were decidedly less riveting – but he was still just a phone call away, and I often took advantage of my rare alone time (usually while walking the dog) to give him a ring.
After moving to Asia 3 years ago, communication has dwindled. These days we might get an occasional email, but there are no skype chats, phone calls, letters, or birthday presents to unwrap. When you live far away from family, these are the things that keep us close – the quick IM exchanges, silly video chats, emailed notes and drawings, and slightly dented packages with exciting postmarks.
Luckily, my Mom and my British in-laws make a great deal of effort to keep in touch and up to date on our daily lives, which I am so grateful for. Our kids know, love and miss them and it’s a joy to watch their relationships grow and thrive despite the miles between us.
Three out of four grandparents isn’t bad, yet, I still feel disappointed by the Grandpa gap in our lives.
Everyone is missing out ,and I feel sad that my fantastic kids don’t know my equally fantastic Dad and that he doesn’t know them. Ultimately, though, their grandfather-grandchild relationship belongs to them. I can encourage this special bond, but I can’t create their connection or force them to know and love one another.
I also feel disappointed in my Dad’s hands-off role in my own life since having kids. Just because I am now a parent doesn’t mean that I don’t still need my own parent. Though I’m now living in the big wide world that he encouraged me to explore, all of the same advice applies. And sometimes I still need it.
In a few weeks we will drive our little family to the desert to visit my Dad for the first time in 2 years.
My hope is that my Dad and my children will have time to get to know each other and create some special memories during our short visit. For myself, I hope to reconnect with an open heart and commit to communicating better going forward.
Life is simply too short.
How do you maintain relationships with family when living far away? Has your relationship with your parents changed since you became a parent?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her blog, Notes From a Small World, is currently on hiatus but she promises to return to blogging soon.
Photo credit to Kihoon Park. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.