She provided a home for my mother, sister and I until we grew up, and I will always be grateful for the support and love she gave us. I hope that I will be able to be as gracious and loving towards my own children in difficult situations.
That all said, grandma had a temper. And a sharp tongue that she could use with surgical skill to cut your spirit in half to deliver the cruelest of her verbal venom. (I'm sorry grandma, but that's true too and sometimes, that's the part of your legacy that I remember the most.)
As sis and I entered our tween and teen years, Grandma was pretty adamant that if we got "into trouble" we were going to be looking for a new place to live, and that when we moved out there would not be any moving back. Maybe she was just trying to save us from some of Mom's mistakes, I don't know. But I do know that I approached my high school graduation with a bit of dread - afraid that I wouldn't be able to make it outside of my childhood home and wondering what would happen to me if I that happened.
As it turned out, I needn't have worried. I graduated from high school, grandma died, I graduated from Baker College, got married and have managed more or less, just fine.
When my own children started to come along, I knew in my heart that there were some things about my own upbringing that I DID NOT want to repeat with them. It is in me to hold a grudge, just like my grandmother. But knowing how hurtful and counterproductive that can be, I always tried to patch up problems and ask forgiveness as soon as possible - with my children and with my husband. I also told my kids that I would love them always, no matter what, and if they ever got into trouble, they needed to tell me and their dad because we are the ones that love them the most and we are the ones that will be there to support, love and help them.
As time went on I sort of nuanced that with, "You know, I'll probably have to yell and scream a little bit, and if you do something really stupid, I think you'll owe me that. But I'll get over it if you just give me a little time. Just be aware of that but don't be afraid. Remember the story of Ping!"
So my kids have all known that if they ever get into any real problems or difficulties- they should come to me and Mr. Pete, and we will try to help them through it together.
What I didn't know, for sure, was how I would react if-or-when one of my kids needed me this way. Would I turn into my grandmother? Would I rant and fume and fuss and say mean and terribly hurtful things that would be remembered for decades? Or would I be able to be there as a loving mother and face the situation with my child together.
Back in mid-June, about the time I got back from the Franciscan University weekend with the parish youth, I did get some pretty difficult news. News that I am not quite yet ready to share here on the blog. But my reaction surprised me.
First of all, it wasn't a sudden explosion of rage - it was more an envelopment of hurt and numbness and a large dose of disbelief. And visceral. Stress is always visceral for me - I don't know why. But my head started spinning, my stomach hurt immediately, and I had to make myself start breathing. I immediately got Mr. Pete and I watched as the wind got knocked out of his sails as well.
And we both sunk into silence and then, surprisingly... brainstorming! "Maybe we could do this?" or "Maybe we should do that?" and "What if we approached it this way?" This was NOT how I thought we would ever react, at least not immediately, but in retrospect it makes sense - that's what we have always tried to do - look at our situation and figure out the best course of action.
I'd like to say that I have been totally Godly and wonderful since then - but that hasn't been the case. Turns out I am not a rage-aholic like I feared I might be with my kids; I am a sniper. I will say mean little things at opportune times. Mostly when I'm tired so it's probably best not to talk about it at all after 9 p.m. But I have apologized afterwards. Mainly though, there has NOT been a "deep freeze." People in this house are not ignoring or not talking to each other. There have been tears, but there has been laughter too.
So two more of my children have moved out - not under ideal circumstances, but not with doors bolted and locks changed. Since moving out a few weeks ago they have been back to do laundry, visit a little, and even get some food. Since Gabe is still not a licensed driver, I took him to his soccer reffing gig so he could make some extra cash and I was happy to do it.
But in this house that once held a family of 8, we are now down to a family of 5 and learning to navigate that. And since this has been rather unconventional - not like kids moving away to college but more like kids moving out to real life - I'm at a loss for guidance from other mom bloggers or even real life friends. Yet faith remains the cornerstone of the family and the three remaining kids deserve to be enveloped in that, along with all the security and love Mr. Pete and I can give them.