My parents are moving to Florida.
Despite the fact that I only see them a few times a year when they live only forty minutes away, I’m upset that I may not see them much once they move.
I really dislike Florida. It’s muggy and commercial and the home of Disney. To me, it’s the worst of suburban sprawl, and I think the alligators (and the Seminoles) should have been left alone.
Plus, I don’t like planes. I didn’t like them before 9/11, and I like them a hell of a lot less now.
Betty has a regular, 9-5 kind of job, and we take a lot of three- and four-day weekends to do outreach, when we can. As a result, we’ve kind of nickel’d and dimed her vacation time to almost nothing this year, and that without actually going on an actual vacation, so making time to visit them wonâ€™t be easy.
I know for most Americans itâ€™s normal to have close relatives living far away. My family is a little more 19th Century: my parents grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Long Island, where I was born, and raised, and which I left the minute I could â€“ for Brooklyn. Weâ€™ve tracked each other around NYC like weâ€™ve been trying to catch a Heffalump. Most of the rest of my family stayed put: some stayed married and others got divorced, but still, they had children, and houses, on Long Island. I’ve been blessed (and cursed) with having a huge Catholic family – five siblings, various siblings-in-law, two parents, seven nieces, and two nephews – right nearby.
That my parents are leaving seems incomprehensible. They were the ones who chose Long Island in the first place, and theyâ€™ve lived there 43 years. They leave not only their family, but their parish, their neighbors, their friends. But living in New York is too expensive for a couple in their 70s whose medical bills are only increasing. My mother can’t walk on ice or snow (she has what I refer to as a bionic knee) and I think my father has done his lifetime of shoveling the stuff. It makes perfect sense for them to go where they’ll have a pool in their complex, and where my dad will be a short hop from the Metsâ€™ training grounds: heaven itself to a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
I don’t doubt they’ll be happy. But Iâ€™m not. I keep having this feeling that thereâ€™s something Iâ€™m forgetting to do.
The way I see it, even though none of us trusts it, life has familiar patterns, slow cycles of eras. Dutiful daughter becomes rebellious teenager becomes young adult. You make your own life. With any luck, you start to appreciate your parents as friends and adults and not just as parents.
When you get married, you are simultaneously welcomed back into the family, and sent on your way to forming your own. My mom and I have talked about marriage a lot; she knew about Betty before some of my friends did, and always reassured me that if it weren’t trans stuff, it’d be something else, because it always is. We got to talk as mother and daughter, but also as wives, and as women.
With them moving, I’ve finally figured out where my pattern unraveled, like a piece of knitting left on the needle in an old womanâ€™s lap: Iâ€™m not having their grandchildren.
Not having their grandchildren means I will never connect with my mother as grandmother and mother. Betty and I decided a long time ago that we wouldnâ€™t have children; neither of us had any urge for kids, and crazy us â€“ we figured our opinions were the only ones that counted. Believe me, thatâ€™s not the way other people saw it: we were asked regularly when weâ€™d be having kids. And when we said we donâ€™t want kids we heard about ticking clocks and what great parents we would be, so much so we eventually changed our standard response to weâ€™re not planning on having children right now. The ticking never got louder, and we only became more convinced that people who donâ€™t want children do not make good parents.
Yet thereâ€™s this sense of incompleteness, this void, of what to put in its place. Can anything possibly replace grandchildren? Probably not. But thereâ€™s still this urge in me, to do something for them, to say thanks, to tell them I love them in some more-than-verbal way. But all I have is words.
So thanks, mom and dad, for the house, and the yard, the food and the arguments, and even for the various neuroses Iâ€™m sure are your fault. But mostly, thank you for having enough children to have your grandchildren so that I donâ€™t have to.