How bowling helps me not to feel like a parentless parent
My family feels too small. In losing Dad, and slowly losing Mom, my family feels smaller by so much more than just one and a half people. I often feel a bigger loss, like a whole generation is gone for me. Grandparents. Oh if I could tell you about the embarrassing jealousy I feel when I see my neighbors' and friends' children with their grandparents. It hasn't been so long that I've forgotten what that's like. I remember when my parents would come and visit. I would show them around my house, taking them room by room so they could see the new projects we had done, or the new books my son had. I remember not giving a second thought to them bringing good wine, to having ideas about where to go to eat, or where they wanted to walk. Dad always wanted to "hit the head" and then "stretch his legs" after a long drive. Classy Dad, real classy. Visiting Philadelphia for them was like coming home- they both grew up here and when they came back they wanted to eat certain foods and see certain things. I relished showing them those things. They wanted to go to Campos and get big Italian sandwiches. Then dessert. You know you can't get Tastykakes in Connecticut? They don't sell them there. We used to travel to Philadelphia to see my Grandparents, and ALWAYS travel home with a box of Tastykakes. Chocolate cupcake out of the freezer? Yesssss.
My Dad was 65 when he died. I was 34 and my son was 1. He has no memory of my Dad, although I talk about him often and have his picture throughout the house. I know what this is like. My Dad's parents died when I was an infant too. I have no memory of them and have even forgotten their names on occasion. It's not what I envisioned as a relationship between my son and his grandfather. My husband lost his father almost 30 years ago, so our little guy is already down two grandparents. I had different expectations of my parents, and it's hard to say out loud that your parents disappointed you. But I am disappointed. I wish It was different and my Dad was here. I thought when my parents became grandparents they would be printing pictures of my kids to show around to their friends. I thought my parents would be taking my son out to eat pasta at Lido's Pizzeria while my husband and I went to the movies. I thought they would laugh at how he gets pasta all over but continues to say "twirl it, twirl it" as if he is making a neat twirl of spaghetti.
I thought my Mom would be able to tell me what it was like for her when she was pregnant with me. I thought when I went into labor with my son, that my Mom and Dad would say "we are on the way".
Instead they said "Dad can't come right now because he's in the middle of a chemo session and needs to finish two more days of treatment." And it was only two days later that he and Mom came. But I knew then that the cancer had started to eat away at my plans for my family. I can't imagine how tired he must have been after finishing yet another round of IV chemo, and then traveling the five hours to come be with me in the hospital. I truly don't remember much from those early days after giving birth. I remember being really hungry. I remember being truly shocked that this small baby belonged to me now. I remember that when the tray of clear liquids came in the middle of labor I ate EVERYTHING on the tray out of fear I would be too hungry in labor. (By the way- can you get with it hospital that I delivered at??? Give a lady some actual food.)
But I do remember clearly when Dad and Mom showed up. I remember so badly wanting to see the look of love on their faces. That natural look they would make when they were proud of me, and excited about something. God I miss that. I captured a picture of Dad holding my little guy, with that look on his face. Dad looks sick in the picture, but all I really see is that look in his eyes, the one that told me that he was proud of me. That's something they don't tell you. When your parents aren't here (or can't piece it together), no one really gives two shits about what you accomplish. Not the way they would. My husband reads my evaluation that I got for one year at my job. He's proud. But not parent proud. Because that role only belongs to my parents. And they can't do it anymore.
My sister had a wonderful baby last week. Beautiful, healthy and probably already really smart. And I found myself blindsided by grief. I missed my Dad and Mom and parents that would come over and vacuum and not say anything about how I never do. I missed them for my sister. I missed that generation that could show their approval, and look at our family with pride. I missed that extra level of family that would keep up traditions, and bring over our favorite foods, and celebrate these good parts of life. I found myself stretching myself thin to try and fill that void for our family. A void that on some days is manageable and others feels just too vast to even explain to anyone.
But I told you guys that I am going to try for joy. So here is my joy for the week. Yesterday my husband decided to help me organize some of our family to go bowling. The way it worked out, it ended up being just me, husband, son and my Uncle bowling today. We don't see each other on a routine basis but we always feel like we could call, or ask for help if we needed it. Within minutes of seeing my Uncle, my son grabbed his hand and they walked together toward the vending machines so my son could show him all of the toys he wanted. And for that moment, a small piece of that joy and pride returned. That feeling that someone else is looking at you and approving of the decisions you are making with your family. Later he would show my son how to bowl (we are all terrible) and even though he managed to get 0 pins down even with bumpers, for a few hours, that void seemed tolerable.
When my son came around the score table to show his great uncle that he could make a triangle with his fingers, and his great uncle responded with the same enthusiasm and excitement that his grandfather would have, it truly was a wonderful moment.
So this is my goal. To intentionally seek out those in my life who bring me and my immediate family joy. To give of my time and energy when I can to help others celebrate and realize what a joy they are to me. And to tell my friends that I am proud of them when I am, especially those that are without a parent to tell them how great they really are.