Thursday, September 15, 2016

Roots

Living in families can get messy.  Especially when there are the unexpected experiences such as divorce, death, illness, difficulties in raising children, etc.  Plus the sometimes exciting, but "non-traditional," of blended families or adoption can also make family less black and white and require extra effort to make it work.  This is so fitting to write about after the last post.  God uses families for His plan, not only as the laboratory for learning about love, service, and the gospel, and ideally all things good, but also as I discussed last time, to help us have a journey or a reason to come unto Christ.   For some it is in families that they taste the most bitter of bitter.  Fortunately for me I haven't seen the blackest hues that I know others have.  I really had a great upbringing, but there were aspects of it that were confusing at times.  Having come to terms with my childhood, I have peeled back another layer that needs healing. 

 My Grandma Ricks passed away this week.  It hurts, but not in the way I would want it to if I still had the choice.

My parents divorced when I was about 12.  Someone pointed out to me a few years ago that I truly have been cushioned and protected from what normally would be such a crushing experience for a child.  For me, I think my mom remarrying within about a year's time making a short gap without a Dad in the house is a big part of that.   My step-dad did an amazing job and I think that has contributed to why I have faired so well.  He jumped right in from being a bachelor who had never married to the parent of 7 kids over night!  Although there were adjustments, because he immediately stepped up as my Dad, it was a natural and smooth process for me.   Even within siblings, not everyone of us had the same experience with transitioning, so again, I am grateful for my positive experience.

As painful as it was at that time, I also wonder if my Dad being inconsistent in his contact was actually a blessing.  It wasn't as confusing as it may have been if my siblings and I were being sent back and forth between parents regularly.  In later years we would go most summers for a few weeks, but otherwise it was on rare occasions I would see my Dad.  Sometimes even up to as long as a year without any contact at all.  I have spent a lot of time in recent years working on the hurt and therefore the "justified" resentment I held towards my dad.  It was a cherry on the top to recently be able to speak openly back and forth about what happened and to be able to understand each other.  He didn't intend to hurt, but he just didn't know how to do it any different.  I am grateful to have closure on that aspect of my upbringing.

With my dad as the link between extended family being so inconsistent, I don't have strong relationships with any of my Ricks relatives.  In the 19 years since my parent's divorce, I have only seen my Grandma or any Ricks relatives a handful of times.  In the past few years I have added some family members on FB and that is fun to get peeks of their every day lives.   (These pictures actually came from one of my Aunt's FB pages.  I don't have any pictures of her or my Grandpa Ricks otherwise).

My Grandma moved to Southern Utah 18 years ago.  In recent years I have wanted to make the trip to see her, but it seemed that work schedules, life with small children, or finances always stood in the way.  Plus, we would always have that chance, right?  Last fall I felt such a push to go see my  Grandma.  We even spoke with my Aunt she was living with about arranging it and visiting while we went to the Provo City Center Temple open house.  Two of my boys came down with colds the day before.  With her fragile health and my Aunt's allergies to the oils I was using, we canceled the visit.  We had hoped to come see her this fall...but now she is gone.

And I don't feel like I know anything about her.  When we visited I wanted to ask her about her upbringing and youth.  I wanted to know what she has been doing since moving.  I just wanted to know about her life!  I wanted to share my kid with her and speak with her about our lives.

I only have a few memories, most are more of Grandma and Grandpa's house than necessarily my Grandparents themselves.  And it hurts.  I am not so much grieving a person, as I am the opportunity to have a relationship with a person.  In some ways I wonder if this is similar to what some adoption kiddos may feel: I don't know my roots.  I don't know my Grandparents, extended family, and I have no connection at all to the generation past that.

Grandma and Grandpa Ricks with my Aunt, Kristie.
In addition to hurt, I felt a lot of guilt at first.  Yesterday I realized that a relationship take two people.  I don't need to carry the weight for her end of the relationship too.  She could have written or called or tracked me down too.  I can only take responsibility for my end.

For the future, it gives me motivation to get to know the many Ricks relatives I still do have.  To give my kids continued opportunities to get to know ALL of their grandparents and their extended families.  It makes me consider on the far out future, that I want my own grandkids to know me and not just know me, but to have a relationship with me.  That will look different for the comfort level of each child, but I want them to have that opportunity.

I am hopeful that the funeral next week will bring some closure. I look forward to the opportunity for my kids to hear about their great-grandma and to gather together with family.









1 comment:

  1. My mother's mother passed away when I was 20 and was just beginning to see outside of myself. I still wish I could go back and talk to her as an adult and really get to know her and learn from her. My father's mother had no contact with our family unless we initiated it (and often not even then). I feel like I hardly knew her at all--we only met once that I can remember. Your experience resonates with me in different ways relating to each of my grandmothers. Relationships are hard, and we do our best, but life and baggage and certainly other people's choices can get in the way of making our relationships what we would like them to be. Remember that she is still your grandmother, and is still involved with your life, probably even more from the other side of the veil than she was here. I hope you can find your roots and form that connection with them that you need. I'm still on that journey too. I'm sorry for your loss. Praying for you and your family.

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