I wake up most days to find my daughter sitting on the sofa with my grandson, both coo-ing at each other and exchanging good morning smiles. It’s my life these days and it’s comfortably familiar. It’s interesting how “life comes full circle” and “history repeats itself.” I could probably come up with more cliche phrases to represent our life right now but those two stand out. Maybe I’ll add “shit happens” because it always seems to be relevant. The story of the single mother raising a child all by herself with the help of only her parents and siblings played itself out about 50 years ago.
And the child was me.
My mom married after college and I was born a year later. We lived in the small town of Easton, Maryland on the eastern shore. “God’s country” we used to call it, and it’s the type of town that lives within your soul. My family had resided there for generations and it will always be home to me. I was fortunate to have my grandparents and great grandparents nearby, as well as an aunt and uncle who I adored. My mom stayed at home taking care of me as most moms did in those days. But my dad, by all accounts, wasn’t the most stable person, and the marriage was rocky. My mom experienced a lot of emotional abuse, and when I was two, my dad moved out and they divorced. And when I say he left, I mean he intentionally left for good. I saw him for a few hours a few times a year – on my birthday and Christmas – and I barely knew him. By the time he tried to come back into my life – around age 5-6 – I not only barely knew him, I barely liked him. The realization of this years later hurt a lot.
There are similarities and obvious differences between my life and Beck’s.
My parents were married, the most obvious difference, and therefore my father was on the birth certificate. My father left, but he lived nearby unlike Beck’s dad who is halfway across the country having just joined the military. We both could not see our fathers when we wanted to, and we both had no idea when we’d be able to see them again.
And both my mother and Maggie had no assurance that they’d ever have the support of their child’s dad. Both struggled with doing what is in the best interest of their child in this respect. Both were told it would all be ok, but in my case it wasn’t. I don’t want that for Beck.
I see my daughter emotionally manipulated – some have said blackmailed – and I feel pain. Gut-wrenching-heart-tied-in-knot pain. I stand up for her as best I can, but like my mom before her, Maggie makes up her own mind. She isn’t easily swayed. I can give her advice, but in the end it’s her life, her baby and her decisions on how best to raise him.
More similarities… Like my mom who had my grandmother nearby, Maggie and Beck will live with me until they are able to move out on their own. I hope this is soon – not for me, but for them. Until then we’ll make living at Granny’s as nice as we can. Merely a young child, I have memories of living at my grandmother’s house around the time my grandfather died. Some of my earliest flashes of the past are from that home on Brooklets Avenue…. watching the Mickey Mouse Club in the basement and eating pink candies in a bowl in my grandmother’s living room. Betting quarters on the horse races on TV. Being completely grossed out by my great grandfather flipping his dentures in and out. Remembering the day my mom told me my grandfather had gone to live with Jesus. Going into his room to tell my grandmother in my strongest big girl voice not to cry.
I was four. And I was very aware of who was in my life and who was not.
Beck may never know his father. I’m not sure if I would have been better knowing or not knowing mine – in this case hindsight isn’t 20/20. More cliches. More comparisons. More confusion.
And as this story unfolds, it makes you wonder if things really do happen for a reason. Did I live the life I lived to be able to help Beck live the life he’ll live? It’s one of those things we may never know. Or we may find out the hard way.
Like grandmother, like grandson – the world is full of cliches. That happily ever after thing? Our family will always do our best to make it his reality.