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I'm Not Doing This For Him, I'm Doing This For My Children
I don’t have many memories of my grandpa. I think I’ve only seen him a few times in my life. He lived in a tiny cottage right by the old wooden church where he served as a verger. There was a ceramic toadstool in his garden with smiling gnomes underneath. Climbing this mushroom with my brothers and cousins is my most vivid memory of our time together. This, and Brazilian soap opera always on the TV.
My dad and his dad didn’t have an easy relationship. I don’t know too many details, and what I know is not my story to tell. After my dad left home right on his eighteenth birthday, they never spoke to each other for a whole decade or more.
But eventually he took us several times all the way to this tiny cottage on the other side of the country, traveling on three different trains as we didn’t have a car in our family back then. As a kid I never realized how much these visits must have cost him emotionally, and now I’m beginning to appreciate the logistics side of it too. Had he chosen to never meet his father again, it would have been an understandable choice.
“I’m not doing this for him, I’m doing this for my children”—my dad told me once when I was old enough to understand—“I don’t want the curse of my childhood to continue for another generation”. He wanted us to grow up with fond memories of our grandfather, and for this to happen he had to put his own feelings and all the unresolved tension aside. As far as I can tell, they never had a honest conversation before my grandpa died, but it didn’t stop him from cultivating this relationship as much as he could handle.
I never knew my grandpa as an adult, and I hardly knew him as a kid. If there was a proper closure between him and my dad, how different our relationship could have been? My dad is my daughter’s favorite person on Earth now, but I don’t think it would be possible if I had kids ten years earlier. I had to tend to my own wounds first and process my own resentment before I could prioritize spending as much time with him as possible. Meeting him is nothing but joyous now, but it wasn’t always this way. What an incredible luck it is to have access to all the healing modalities my ancestors wouldn’t even have dreamed of.
I know I can’t avoid hurting my own kids. Maybe they too will resent me for this at some point. But I do hope that by the time they have their own children, they will come to prioritize us spending time together, just like my dad made sure we spent some time with his dad, and like I now make sure my daughter spends time with him. Most people would be better grandparents than they were parents for their own kids, but there has to be enough goodwill and maturity on both sides to make this possible.
But even if this doesn’t work out, there will be always people wishing you nothing but the best if you go back or forth in time for enough generations. The everyday logistics between parents and kids can be messy, but I’ll be always rooting for my children, and their children, and theirs, children I’ll never meet. And as I think of them, I can feel hundreds of my ancestors all rooting for us as well, cheering on us as we resolve yet another emotional knot that was blocking us from truly connecting. I’m sure I won’t heal all of these in my lifetime, and I’m only recently learning to accept it. This is a long-term project that spans across generations, and it’s our children’s job to pick up where we leave off.
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