Sunday, 27 April 2014

Please, don't sign yourself "Gramps"

Dear Stephen, 

I've toyed with the idea of writing to you since Christmas, when you blew up and blew apart the family we thought we had, but I haven't really known where to start or what to say. I haven't wanted to ask forgiveness - maybe we should, but we don't know what caused your behaviour, so we can't tell whether we're in a position to ask pardon or demand that you do.  And it seems silly to ask for an explanation when you won't be able to provide anything that comes close to excusing what happened. 

Of course, no matter the reason for the appalling show of temper on Christmas Eve, I'll never believe that your reaction was warranted. I'm used to people stomping and shouting and causing havoc - in my family, it's par for the course whenever one of us gets on another's nerves. We're not cold blooded, though - we don't plan to hurt each other and we're as fast to admit wrongdoing and apologise as we are to fly off the handle. However, again, this isn't really something I wanted to get into in too much depth. I don't really see the point.  You don't want to be in our lives and, as a family, we can live with that.

You sending Dom an Easter card, however, set my mind in gear again. I'm sure it was done with much deliberation about the effect it would have in our household, and the words were carefully chosen - that much is apparent. It's those words, and one in particular, that are the reason for me finally sitting down to write this letter that you may never even see. If you don't, it'll be a release for me and maybe the shitty dreams I continue to have about the whole situation will cease. I can only hope.

First of all, why the repeated mention of money? In a small Easter card to a toddler who still thinks money is for eating, it was undoubtedly the dominant theme. You seemed very anxious to let "Dom" know that you were still filling his bank account, almost as if money could make up for the loss of something that is precious and beautiful - the relationship between a child and their grandfather.  

See, to me, that relationship is absolutely sacred.  I grew up with the best grandfather the world has ever known - of course, most grandchildren who are lucky enough not to lose their grandparents early probably feel the same way.  Rather than diminish the strength of my feelings, though, this only serves to increase my respect for that togetherness that spans and bridges generations. I never called my grandad, "grandad". Until the day he died, I called him Dad. He was everything a father and a grandfather should be, and that's the standard I aspire to. It's impossible to attain, but nobody who loves my son should ever stop trying to reach it. 

It was for that reason, that sentimental memory of my own time as the apple of someone's eye, that during the nightmare that you tried to make of Christmas Eve, I was still standing against Mat in offering you the chance to remain in our son's life even as you broke your own son's heart.  I genuinely thought that, when you told Mat you wanted nothing more to do with him, that some sort of relationship would have to be maintained between you and I at least, so that you could be around for Dominic.  I mean, nobody could hold their grandson, take him to the park, delight in his achievements, get to know him better, and then drop him on Christmas Eve, could they?  I naively thought that Dom was separate from whatever was going on, that you still wanted him even as you threw us away.  But I was wrong, wasn't I?  You had Debbie and Leah remove me from Facebook before we even landed back in Spain, taking away the only chance you had to keep up to date on Dom's progress without having to speak to me or Mat.  And to this day, the phone hasn't rung.  You don't know what you've missed.  I pity you for that.  

Back to the money.  Obviously the repeated references were for our benefit, rather than Dom's.  The only money he's interested in has chocolate inside, like the coins he ate while opening his presents on Christmas day.  You missed that, too.  Do you think we want your money?  Do you think that's why we were around?  If so, that's sad.  I was tempted to return the card to you, tell you to take your money away and not pollute my family with mention of it again, but in the end, I realised that as a mother, my duty was to my baby.  That's not my money to refuse.  In the unlikely event that it does ever make its way to Dom when he's 16 or 18 or 21 or whatever you have planned, he'd probably be very grateful for it.  I can't in good faith let my own feelings take away something that could be beneficial to my son, though I hope you know that he's not for sale.  Not now, not ever.  You won't attempt to buy his affection while he's young and has his head easily turned, and for that reason, I'd like you to refrain from mentioning money to him again.  He can make his own decisions when he's mature enough without being swayed by the prospect of financial gain when he's too young to know the price it carries.  

I did want to keep a relationship going between you and Dom, because foolishly, I thought you wanted that too.  I feel differently now.  During the months of silence unpunctuated by so much as a reply to my one text message, I've had time to reconsider that.  I've held your son in my arms as he sobbed his pain into my shoulder, his grief at losing a father again.  Most people dread losing a parent once.  He's now lost both of his, three times in total.  

I remember a time when Mat and I were having trouble and I turned to you for advice, thinking that as his father, you would not only be best placed to help, but would also want to see us doing well together, for the sake of your son and grandson.  The vitriol of your response stunned me into silence for some weeks - a silence for which you later berated me.  An understanding of basic human emotion seems to be something which eludes you, and dealing with the difficulties of family life is clearly not on your agenda.  In the end, we weathered that storm without your help and we'll weather the rest of them.  You taught me something about families that day - that they weren't always like mine, sometimes too eager to be involved but always, always willing to help.   

Mat learned something about families too, over Christmas, and in doing so gave me an insight into himself that I'm glad to have.  Over the course of our relationship, almost ten years, we've broken up numerous times.  I used to wonder how he could pack his stuff and leave like it meant nothing. I didn't realise then what he'd come from.  He explained to me at Christmas, after watching my family laugh about arguments past and surreptitiously bitch about each other while maintaining the love, that he wasn't used to that.  To him, arguments and fights meant that person walked away and never came back.  He deserves respect for breaking that cycle and learning that it's OK to disagree and it doesn't signal the end of your family.  Because for him, growing up, it did.  

My heart hardened against you on Christmas Eve, when I watched you break your own child into pieces and toss him away like a rotten branch.  Maybe that's what you think he is?  Maybe, to you, all that are apparent are the problems, the flaws, the imperfections and the difficulties.  You don't see how amazing he is, how wonderful a father he is to his son and how he supports us both, working long hours, coming home and being engaged with me, with Dom and with the boring drudgery of cooking and cleaning.  You only see the blips and lapses, the bits where he becomes less than you think worthy of your time.  I don't intend to drag up the past between you and him, because I wasn't there, but I'll tell you this - I watched you hurt your son, and I hated you for it.  There is no way on this earth I will let you do the same to mine. He is not an "option" and never will be. 

Don't forget, I've seen the photos.  I've seen you acting the proud father with Mat when he was a baby and a little boy.  You didn't always carry such resentment towards him, obviously.  You even looked like a good father, and I've heard stories that melted my heart about how you cared for him as a tiny baby.  But the thing about kids is, they grow up.  They get smelly and narky and bolshy and don't listen.  They tell lies and make mistakes, sometimes over and over again, and they still need their parents even though they'd deny it to their last breath and with every fibre of their spotty, uncouth, sometimes aggressive being.  The same thing that happened to your son will happen to your grandson, but with one difference.  You won't have the opportunity to flick Dominic off like you did Mat when he became unpleasant and difficult.  He's not a dog that you take to the pound when he's no longer a cute little puppy, but has become a huge ball of slobbering fur that takes up too much room and has too much energy that's impossible to direct productively.  I watched you hurt your son, and you will NEVER hurt mine in the same way.  Understand that now, and remember it well.  You do not get that chance with my child.  You don't just play with the puppy until the novelty wears off.  

You may think I'm a bit ahead of myself, telling you how to parent when you have 40 years on me, but I don't measure success on longevity.  A marriage where one partner cheated or beat the other for 40 years would not be considered successful, and on the same note, parenting two children who become estranged from you as adults is no recommendation of your methods.  Your ability and willingness to turn your back on your children, to me, negates the time spent raising them.  

You probably wonder how I can sit here imagining that I'll never do the same to Dom, because he hasn't had the chance to hurt or disappoint me yet.  In answer, I'll once again direct you to Mat.  Our relationship is far from perfect and we've hurt each other on multiple occasions, but we still love each other dearly and deeply.  We forgive each other, we try to help each other do better next time.  In doing so, we demonstrate to Dom the very values that we hope to instil in him, and we show him that even when you mess up badly, your family will always be home.  I've spent ten years showing this to Mat, and will spend the rest of my life teaching it to our child.  

As you don't seem able to do that, I have another request regarding your little conscience-easing cards.  As I mentioned above, I feel very strongly about the bond between a child and their grandparents.  It is a source of intense sorrow to me that Dominic is not going to grow up with that depth of love from a grandfather, not going to know that  behind Mama and Dad there is another force, immovable in its ability to love and sustain.  I want to give my son everything the world has to offer, but I can't give him the best thing I ever had - a grandfather who would move mountains to be near him.  And I won't give him instead a grandfather who won't even pick up the phone.  I won't give him a cash-flashing imitation of a grandad.  

So, please, don't sign yourself "Gramps".  A Gramps holds hands, not envelopes of money.  A Gramps balances babies on his knee, not chequebooks to make himself feel better.  A Gramps goes to the park with his grandkids, not to the bank for them.  We wanted Dom to have your presence, not your presents.  If that's not happening, don't assume a relationship you don't have.  Sign yourself Stephen, and accept the relationship you chose.  



Emma said...

Very brave and very.honest, yet obviously very necessary. Hope that you'll start dreaming better dreams. x

anastasia Victoria said...

Excellent blog. Very honest and very sad . I do think you should send this to him. So sorry you and your partner have had bad times recently over Christmas. I love reading your blog and this was a good read. Can't beat ab honest and raw post ! Xx

Anonymous said...

Dani, this is the first time I have read your blog and I have not read anything so honest and thought provoking before. Seeing the pictures of your wee family together, working through problems and coming out the other side that's what family is all about not money and false actions. I can definitely say I will be reading the rest of your blog, even with no children!!

Inadvertent Parent said...

Thankfully, my family came together and we still had a lovely Christmas. This will not be our only enduring memory of the first Christmas Dom could really participate in!

Inadvertent Parent said...

Thank you!x

Inadvertent Parent said...

I am DYING to know who this is! The clues I have are possibly Scottish with no kids... Off to go through my Facebook friends and stalk them all!

And thank you for the compliment, the response from all everyone has been much appreciated!