My oldest daughter was the first grandchild born to my parents. I will never forget how for weeks after she was born, I could count on the doorbell ringing and open it to see my father’s smiling face, standing there expectantly, waiting to hold and play with his granddaughter. Every day it was the same.
And even after more grandchildren came along, these two, they shared a bond. But about six years ago things changed. My father retired, and became consumed with church and his callings therein, and the first mission came. That did some damage to the bond. But that was not enough. They decided to go on yet another mission. This one was to Switzerland, and they were gone for two years. That one almost irrevocably destroyed the bond. When they returned, they could not understand the distance that still existed. My father didn’t understand why he was no longer close with this child who had spent so many hours with him before. Of course, then they accepted yet ANOTHER mission, this one only to Salt Lake City, but it required regular working hours every day but Sunday. And that’s their Church day.
When my father woefully told me that he was no longer so close witih Chatter Child, I pointed out, “You were gone. You still are.”
“But surely they understand that I’m doing this for my eternal salvation. I could be one of those grandpas that just go down to the coffee shop and drink coffee with their buddies and chat. But I’m working for my eternal salavation.”
And I remember thinking, “Boy, are you in for a wakeup call. And what’s so wrong with sitting at the coffee shop and drinking coffee with your buddies? Haven’t you earned that? After you LEAVE the coffee shop, you can go visit your grandchildren, or spend time on a hobby.”
Last night, this came to a head when my mother told me that my youngest is distant, and snobbish to them. Part of this, is of course because she is a teenager, and as I’ve mentioned before, a mutant alien. But a good part is the wall put up when my parents chose church over family.
My mother said, “Well, when you retire, you have a right to do these things. You have a right to pursue your dreams and desires.”
I certainly don’t disagree. But you have to make choices and sacrifices, too. If you choose to give all your time and money to your church, please don’t accuse my children of not opening up to you when they don’t even KNOW you anymore.
Other parents retire and go on three month road trips. They don’t leave for two years and come home and tell stories about all the wonderful students they met, that just love them, and come to visit, and call all the time, and send them cards. They LIVE for that adoration. Those students considered them surrogate parents and grandparents, and they don’t see the ugly side of them. They don’t hear about fights at school, or problems with friends, or failing tests. These friends have become the PERFECT FAMILY. They only adore from afar. Is that what my parents wanted? I don’t know.
But what I do know is they had their own children and grandchildren here, at home. And chose to leave them. And now they don’t understand it. They don’t understand the distance, even though they are now living so close.
My father has taken quite ill, and is no longer able to do much. A few weeks ago they set out on a trip to Phoenix, to spend a week with friends, and they were forced to turn around and come home, because of my father’s health. My mother has lung and voice problems, and she, too, cannot do much anymore.
They are grateful they served their missions when they did. After all, now their health is bad, and they can no longer even consider doing any of that. Or playing with their grandchildren. Or taking shopping excursions with teenage granddaughters. Sitting on benches to watch Dancing Daughter perform is just too hard on their backs. They can’t consider swimming in a pool, or playing catch in the backyard. This past Sunday my mother never even made it out of bed to go to church, something unheard of.
Everybody makes choices. My mother’s health went on the decline during their first mission. My father’s has gone steadily downhill for the past five years. And above all that, they have a limited income, but they PAID to go on all those missions.
And now they are angry and hurt because their grandchildren are not close to them. You make choices. And they chose.
And it was not family.
The old motto should be Church is forever and eternal. Not families.