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 . . .

[photo credit]


14 thoughts on “Closer

  1. my in-laws (now just my mother-in-law) live 30 minutes from us and it has been wonderful. i have the best in-laws in the world and my kids have been blessed to be so close to them.

    my mom lives a blessed 12 hours away. although is talking about moving closer now that she is retired. she should. but those are some boundaries i’m not looking forward to drawing or figuring out or building. or whatever.

  2. See and I can’t wait for hubby to finally graduate so we can move away from family…for a little while anyway…

  3. I wanted to do the exact same thing when I moved my mom down here, back that truck right up to a dumpster and pitch it all. I enjoy having the family close, my wife’s parents live 700 miles away, so it is nice that my son gets to spend time with some of his grandparents. This may change as he gets older, but my brother helped me out and had a kid of his own. Now she has to shuttle back and forth between our houses to see both grandsons 🙂

  4. My mother-in-law is close. Really close. She lives in the apartment above our garage. Works out great, though as she works at the school where my kids attend. She takes them in in the mornings and it saves me about an hour round trip.

  5. My mom lives five minutes away. Yes there are boundaries that can be crossed, opinions given and feelings hurt, but she’s has been a god-send in so many circumstances it’s hard to recall the bad times. She knows each and every one of her grandchildren very well and has been an important part of their lives from each of their beginnings. She is a fundamental part of her children’s and grandchildren’s lives.
    My dad? Well, he lives about an hour away from me and further from some of my sisters. He hasn’t been there as much and consequently, he is family, but the grandkids just don’t know him as well. He’s Grandpa, but she is GRANDMA!
    My in-laws moved to another state when my oldest was a few months old. He died three years after they moved, so my girls don’t really remember their dad’s dad. It makes me sad. My MIL is a wonderful, loving, caring grandmother who has somehow spanned the distance with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is now talking about moving back to the area to be closer to all of her family. I can’t wait. She is that wonderful. She does not step over boundaries and hurt those she loves. I hope I’m like her when I get to be a grandma.
    I wish your family all the happiness in the world with your family so close again. It can be so wonderful. I hope you experience that.

  6. My parents live over four hours away by car. My inlaws live 35 minutes away.

    My daughter likes my parents a lot better.

  7. My inlaws live three doors down the street. I am in love with this situation. They are the most wonderful people I know. My mother used to live 2 minutes away…then she moved over an hour away. Nobody noticed, really.

  8. In my adult life I have never been closer than two hours away from either of my parents. Right now I live a 19 hour drive from both of them. And my kids…my son is an 11 hour drive away and my youngest just moved all the way to Baltimore for college. I won’t even guess how many hours of driving that is. Luckily, I do have one daughter that is only 15 minutes away.

    I miss having family nearby. I think it’s really important for the kids to have family nearby. I hope your kids enjoy having their grandparents “so close”!

  9. We never lived close to Grandparents growing up. Actually, for a couple of years we did, but for the most part they were hundreds or thousands of miles away. Now my kids are about the same distance from one of their grandparents as yours are from theirs. And it definitely makes a difference.

  10. Your whole blog just makes me so darned jealous, I may have to unsubscribe!

  11. Sadly, I’m moving away from my parents. But, positively, we may end up seeing them more. It’s only two hours away. One of those “you don’t know what you got until you lose it” kind of things.

  12. Having my wife’s parents in the same city is nice sometimes. They have their space and we have ours, and sometimes we agree to mingle them, which the boys always love. My mom lives 3 hours away, an easy weekend drive. Now that we have kids, she’s here plenty. Something about the process of our parents becoming grandparents has made us all a bit closer, it seems. Softened some of the edges, I guess.

  13. Luisito and are slightly isolated. His family is a three hour car ride away and mine…well….further.

    Sometimes I’d like to be closer to his family or mine and know deep down that the older we get the more we will need them and other times I just love our quiet life where we only have each other.

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