It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.
~ Mother Teresa
Thirty . . .
The number of times my mom and dad have packed up their belongings and shoved them into one of those large white trucks with the orange stripe. This one sported “Venture Across America” #116, featuring an intimidating picture of a goshawk, a bird of prey that, according to the blurb, is abundant in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. While that’s interesting and all, I would have much preferred to have packed a truck bearing this tidbit of American arcana. That would have been badass.
Some boxes were delicate, marked “Fragile” in black Sharpie: hand-painted ceramic chess sets nestled in bubble wrap; china slipped between the funny papers and the classifieds from Sunday’s Courier & Press. Others held a hodgepodge of knickknackery, the haphazardly-stowed flotsam and jetsam of a cluttered and chaotic existence. Not surprisingly, some boxes hadn’t even been unpacked from the last move. I quipped how it was a good thing they were moving next door to a rather roomy garbage bin. How convenient it would be to just back that 26-foot monstrosity right up to the edge of it and start pitching stuff. They rented one of those climate-controlled storage sheds instead.
Aryn and I followed them in dad’s truck for seven hours as we wound our way northward through the great state of Indiana. From one corner, diagonally to the other, never going above the recommended and prominently-posted 55 MPH, we lumbered along, stopping occasionally to stretch our legs and redeem our Speedway Rewards points for roller grill items and frozen Mountain Dews. The license plate number for my sister’s Cavalier, which we hitched to the back of the U Haul, is forever etched in the grey matter of my brain.
And so, for the first time in over ten years, all the members of the Thomas clan are within twenty-five minutes driving distance of each other. That’s half your average CD. A couple epic Dream Theater songs, if you prefer. Better than the Hall family of Gateshead has it. Way better than poor Raymond had it; there’ll be no surprise visits by frantic mothers in nightgowns and slippers. But walking my dad through the frustrating intricacies of his computer will be easier now. And grandparental attendance at this or that school event will make the kids happy.
Experts agree that while there are advantages for families who live in close proximity to grandparents, living in such a climate can also, at times when confidences are loosened and business becomes everybody’s business, seem like traversing a minefield. Inherent within each situation where too much familiarity is granted is also the implied consent to voice opinions and offer suggestions. Boundaries can be crossed easier and with little thought to the ramifications of such intrusions. Feelings get trampled upon and the closeness becomes a crevasse of covert bitterness or outright animosity.
But we are adults, no? We’ve done this for a while. Some cards we’ll play, and others we’ll hold tightly to our chests. Boundaries will be redrawn, no doubt, but the opportunity for growing new bonds exists. Bonds that won’t be stretched quite so thin, now that they are closer . . .