There’s the tiptoeing around in the early morning, the absurdly quiet sex late at night, going to restaurants you avoid like the mall on black Friday, searching for your Tupperware containers that happen to be suffocating underneath your pots and pans.
There are more than 24 hours of driving time between me and my family, my parents are all retired, and we have the first grandchild, a giggly 2 year old with blonde curls. This means that they visit us frequently and for long stretches of time spanning anywhere from two weeks to two months. It is a long time to silently cringe as your child is fed all forms of unnaturally sweet confection on a regular basis, and to feel the immense pressure of entertaining or at the very least being around your family member constantly.
Old family patterns can creep back into your relationship and control your responses without you even noticing. As the youngest sibling, the “sweet” one, the automatic reaction I have is to be amicable, accommodating, and to absorb endless amounts of criticism disguised as advice or as innocent questions with a good attitude.
When I begin to sigh heavily and feel my words snapping like fresh peapods, I take a little time out for myself.
I think about the fact that two of my grandparents died less than twenty years from the age that my parents are now. I remember that soon enough I’ll be dropping off them off at the airport and will return home to an empty house, going back to the long mornings and afternoons with no adults to talk to. Soon enough Sierra will be asking “where’s grandpa?” And he will already be hundreds of miles away.
Someday I will say goodbye for the last time. Maybe then I will remember the irritating little habits, the times they angered or upset me, but those memories will look like tiny crumbs compared to the enormous feast that makes up the soul and presence of this person; this beloved family member. As in all things, looking at a situation with a telescope rather than a microscope can help us to move forward in peace in our relationships with the ones that raised us, the ones that loved and knew us the longest. In this way we put our egos in check and choose grace and love to guide us in making the most of our time together with our relatives.