By: Joey Uva Enoch
I am finding as I get older that my life has become more complete. I am finding that those very difficult parts of my life that have brought me to where I am now have come with very valuable lessons.
One of the more difficult parts of my childhood was when my mother left when I was seven years old. I spent many years dealing with the emotions and hurt from that time. I wrote about that story almost two years ago and although it was very emotional to put to “paper”, it was very cathartic as well. Not that I didn’t work on it earlier in my life, because that was one thing I promised myself when I was a young adult in order that I could create the life I wanted. I spent a couple years in therapy working on myself and healing myself from the past.
One of the things I never planned on, like many things in life, was having Trevor become part of it. We have been together six years. We come from very different childhood upbringings. We have pushed each other both consciously and unconsciously to be closer to our families. Trevor has always pushed us to become closer to my mother and make more of an effort to find a better place in the here and now to grow from. Trevor knows my childhood story, he knows the past and realizes that it should remain there. I think the death of Trevor’s mom over ten years ago gives him the fight and drive to make this happen. I love him for that.
Something I did promise myself was that Grace would know her grandmother. I promised myself that I would look beyond the past in order that Grace could have that. I can honestly say this has not always been easy for me. I have had to remind myself many a time that Grace deserves her Grandmother; it’s not about me or my past relationship with my mother.
This past weekend we had planned a visit with my mom where she would come out on Friday night and stay the night with us. This would be her first time seeing our new house and staying the night with us here. Trevor drove out to pick up my mom after work; she doesn’t drive. I let Grace stay up a little later than normal so that her grandmother could see her and say goodnight before bed. Grace was excited and asked me several times how long it would be before Trevor would be home with Grandma.
On Saturday morning I got up early, made some coffee, and started cleaning the pool as my mom and Grace both slept in. My mom and Grace both woke up about this same time, Grace much later than normal for a Saturday. My mom grabbed a cup of coffee and sat outside on the patio with Grace. I was just finishing the pool and went in and made some breakfast. We all enjoyed a nice peaceful Saturday morning breakfast together outside. At lunch time we went out to grab a sandwich and headed to our local nursery to buy some plants and flowers for the yard. We drove my mom home early Saturday evening.
On Sunday, I was the first one up as normal. The house was quiet and I found myself missing my mom, wishing she was still here. I began to tear up. I have come to realize that in wanting something better for my daughter I have also created a better place in my heart for my mom, a place of real love.
By: Madge Woods
I got married at 19.
My parents had always said “no man will buy a cow if milk is so cheap.” I married so I could fuck. Yikes, was I young and inexperienced. I had my two sons at age 22 and 24. My pregnancies were my happiest times and I couldn’t wait to have two boys-no girls for me. Why would I expect to be a good mom to girls when my Mom and I were not a good team?
Fast forward: I was married twenty years and was separated/divorced by 39 and was I thrilled. I had just been married too young and was tired of taking care of an adult husband. My kids were 15 and 17 and now I was in an apartment by myself just a mile away for the first time in my life. I had my own space during the separation, in my own place. I was like a kid in a candy store who only had hershey kisses her whole life and now was exposed to the riches of other candies.
My rule was the men I dated had to be at least as old as my sons and some were just that.
Fast forward another 20 years, and both sons were happily married (at age 31, I might add) and living in Chicago with their own families. I was again thrilled. Once I had grandchildren I flew out every 6 weeks and was a fabulous Grammie. I stayed in each son’s house for 2-3 days as to not wear out my welcome and then flew home happy that I had my life and they had theirs. I was a Jewish mother but much easier to control with the 2750 flight miles between us. I had a fabulous relationship with my daughters-in-law and enjoyed my time with them but when I came back to my Zen home, my life was my own. I could do whatever I wanted and I did.
Now we return to current time-the year 2009, and my older son calls me and tells me he is thinking of leaving Chicago and moving to LA to work for his uncle (my ex brother-in-law). He wants to move in with me to do a test run starting in April to see if it works for him and his family. This son had not lived at home since he left for college and now he was coming home and if it worked he would live here in LA permanently with his family. Might I remind you it is me who only stayed a few days in his home as to not overstay my welcome? My son had always been somewhat volatile, and like a volcano could go off and get to 60 in 10 seconds. He had told me he was receiving help and I did see a change in him when I visited, but living together??
We lived wonderfully together in my house for 5 months because we barely saw each other. He worked from early morning to late nights and then commuted home to Chicago every 10 days for a weekend. I did sneak out to an ex boyfriend’s. He once was an ex for good reason, and as far as anyone knew he was history.
I found myself making up stories and using friends to cover my sleepovers. I was 60 years old and literally sneaking out of my own home.
This had to stop, but how? If I fessed up it would be a discussion and I didn’t feel I wanted to explain myself. I sent a message to both sons’ families and confessed and asked for no comments. One day after 5 months my son announces it works and that his wife and kids (twin boys age 5 and a 2 1/2 year old daughter) are moving and would it be okay to move everyone into my house until they find somewhere to live?
Let me go back to my ZEN house. I love it and my life. I was thrilled they lived in Chicago and attributed it to a great relationship and distance. My first response was “sure” (I rarely say no) and made a call to my therapist who I had not seen for years. She basically let me come in that week. I sat in her office with anxiety and worry about boundaries and having three alpha personalities in my small (can you say 1500 square feet?) home.
But when the kids and his wife came to live with me–how would it be? I retouch paint in my house for god’s sake. How were three little ones who would be jammed into 2 rooms with their parents ever work? I told them that they could stay until Nov 1 before they even arrived on Sept 9th. All agreed. They moved in and boy did they move in. Every room but mine became a kid’s zone. Toys, games, balls, dolls, books and clothes were everywhere. Washer and dryer running day and night. For the first few days I was constantly on guard. I needed to keep my Jewish mouth closed and succeeded quite well. The Nov 1 date extended until Dec 31 then again until Feb3. The kids already knew the kids on the street and the families were all young and the arrival of another young family was perfect. But what about me and all these people who had been my friends first? I was a little worried that I would lose my standing on the block but soon I realized that wouldn’t happen. We could all be friends and this would not interfere with my separate relationships with my neighbors. Then the amazing part happened. They found a house. Not just any house but a house on my street.
And as Sarah Palin might have said, I can see their house from my porch. 5 houses down and across the street. I asked, “did they think this would work?” and my daughter-in-law said if she didn’t think it would work she wouldn’t do it. My son was thrilled to be back on the block he grew up on. The kids were going to go to the schools he attended.
To back-track a few months, the living together worked. I was getting good at boundaries after only a few sessions with my therapist. I learned to keep my mouth shut except for once or twice. I learned to let chips in the paint go untouched. I had some rules about food and where they could eat which the kids followed. Shoes were left at the front door. My daughter-in-law was terrific at cleaning up but mostly I didn’t give her a chance to do it as I just had time and liked my clean better and she was very busy getting everyone in schools, classes and activities. I learned a lot about myself. I could share at this age. I could give up some of my compulsions and organization and I could also say no. I started having sleepovers with my friend with benefits and the kids would say “have fun at your sleepover, grammie.” I found ways to have privacy in a very small space or someone else’s place. I traveled too.
I also learned that I could live with someone temporarily and survive and still have a voice in my life. I saw a side of my son that I only dreamed about and thought about but didn’t witness on a fulltime basis. He was a terrific husband, father and son. He loves his wife and kids and would lay down for them in a heartbeat. It is nice to be able to REALLY see that. When a child grows up you hope that you instilled the right values but until they are tested you never really know for sure. And by the very nature of all being in a confined space, boy we were tested.
But the best parts were and still are those grandkids. They loved me from birth but living in my house for 4 months established a new bond that can never be broken. We cuddled, we shared, we talked, we hugged and we told stories. We talked about the best part of our day when we had dinner together. I laughed at almost everything they said because they are funny. I got to really know their personalities and I know my son has been given a gift to see what he was like as a child as these children have all his strengths and weaknesses. They also have strong opinions and can be stubborn just as he was at their age. Also as intense. They are adorable and loving and have a way about themselves that is truly unique. I won’t say it was totally without compromise but we are all stronger for it. And I can still say with a wonderful smile that my daughter-in-law is a fabulous cook, a loving wife, a great mom and a terrific daughter-in-law.
I thought I would lose my identity and become invisible as I have felt for a great part of my life but instead I saw my flexibility, my boundaries, and my true spirit emerge.
I must admit, within 36 hours of their move (down 5 houses and across the street), all the paint was retouched, the walls wiped clean of handprints, their stuff moved to their new house, the garage and every room as clean as before they came and my life back to that ZEN quality. But if I want some of that loving I just walk down 5 houses and across the street and the best part awaits when they greet me and give me hugs and kisses.
And now the grandkids have sleepovers here.
Madge Woods is a freelance writers and has recently read for the Los Angeles show “Spark”.