Moving to Be Near the Grandkids

A grandma uproots her life to be closer to the ones she loves.

By Nancy Kilgore

I sit at my desk and look out the window. Through bare trees in the foreground and across sunny fields to the distant hills of Vermont, I see the view that has become as familiar as seeing my friend Pril and her two Labrador Retrievers who now walk across the scene. In this place I have gazed at the greening fields in spring, watched the deer leap across the open spaces, felt the sharpening of light in fall and the silence of snow in winter. This is my haven, my place for contemplation and inspiration.

But today I feel anything but peaceful. Today I am waiting for my husband to come home so that we can make a counter-offer on our house. We’ve had the house on the market for months, but now someone has made an offer, and suddenly the idea of moving has become a reality.

I shift positions in my chair, go downstairs for tea, skip around on the internet, and fret. Will the deal fall through? Will we end up with a house still for sale on an already-glutted market?

Beneath the surface of my thoughts, I am aware of a deeper meaning. Soon this place where I sit and gaze will no longer be my place of refuge, and this house, the house we designed and built, our dream house, will no longer be our home. A change is coming, a seismic shift that will disrupt my orientation to the world.

We want to move to be near our daughter and granddaughter. To be a part of this new life, this spark of energy and brightness that is a grandchild, that has brought such joy and hope, such a sense of renewal into the family, is something I yearn toward, like turning my face to the sun on a chilly day.

But yet, to leave our dream house, our community, the place where we have friends and roots?

Moving On, Emotionally and Otherwise

I’ve never felt so torn, so drawn in two different directions at the same time, as I have in the past year. Because, although I’ve moved many times in my life, this move is more than just a physical move. This involves a transition from one stage of life to the next.

In my practice as a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with many people who are adjusting to new lives as grandparents, whether living near or far, whether caring for the grandkids or negotiating visits and relationships. But until now, until experiencing it myself, I haven’t known how profound the changes can be.

The psychologist Erik Ericson observed that our lives progress in stages, and that each stage has challenges and tasks. The last two stages are generativity and ego integrity. Generativity occurs in middle adulthood, which takes us though age 65. This is a time to generate, to make contributions beyond ourselves and our own lives. We can find fulfillment in caring for the younger generations or in giving to the community. In the last stage of life, at maturity, our challenge is to integrate the ego through letting go - of attachments to success or possessions - and to find fulfillment and wisdom in our connection with the greater world.

A flock of cedar waxwings descends on the crabapple tree in the yard, with their little black masks and the sparks of yellow at their tails, and they flick to and fro, plucking last year’s fruit from the tree, chattering and singing life into the atmosphere.

This year, I realize, I am doing both of Ericson’s last two stages. I will be taking more of a role in the care of a new generation and I will be letting go of the landscape of my present life – the house, my friend next door, and my attachment to this particular place on earth. Any transition involves a letting go of the old, and letting go involves a loss. So I know that, in spite of the fact that I greatly look forward to my new life and being with my granddaughter, I must let go of my home, I must feel that loss, and I must grieve.

Finding Peace With the Decision

My husband comes home, and we call our realtor with our counter-offer. I busy myself with laundry and to-do lists and try not to let my thoughts and worries run amok. I come back to my desk to attend to emails.

When I look up, the birds are gone, and the crabapple tree is silent and bare. I gaze across the empty field to the hills and the clouds in the sky above. And I recall a line from Thich Nat Han:

Peace is all around us – in the world and in nature –
and within us – in our bodies and our spirits.
Once we learn to touch this peace,
We will be healed and transformed.

So that even within the loss and the grief, as well as within the excitement and hope for a new generation, I can let go. Peace within.

Comments

As nice as it would be to near my grandkids, who are now miles away, I have other children to consider as well as my own life, family, work and marriage. You can't follow all of your children (and grandchildren) and if you try, you could be moving a lot (and who actually likes moving?). Think about your future too. Even if you only have one child, it still doesn't make sense to leave your family and friends. Your children and grandchildren have to make their own lives and make their own friends and sometimes making friends is easier when you don't have family to fall back on. You are a big part of their lives for sure, but you don't have to be underfoot or just around the corner to enjoy them; call them, Skype them, send them cards on special occasions, or for no reason at all, and when you have the time and money, go visit them and enjoy that special time. Yes, you will miss them terribly, as I do, but consider that you might move to be near them one year and due to jobs, they might move to another country the next. How long and how often do you follow them and who do you follow? They won't forget you, unless you let that happen. You enjoy time with them and you have made them the center of your universe but don't forget about your life. Reconnect with your spouse and enjoy your golden years together and definitely fit in your children and grandchildren but they might just love you more for letting them make their own way in the world.

Crosbie on 2014-05-10 14:21:32

I can't begin to express how your article has touched me. I am going to be a first-time grandmother, but my son and his wife live 3,500 miles away. It was hard enough when my son left my home at the age of 16, and now to find out I'll be away from not only him, but from my first grandchild, is heart breaking. I have a new husband who refuses to move with me to be closer to my son. I have a huge decision to make now, and I have felt alone with my feelings of confusion until now. Thank you for posting such a unique, but raw view of this topic.

fivefosters@netzero.net on 2014-02-28 22:14:44

Your words are inspiring as I too have been considering a move to be closer to my new granddaughter. My husband is reluctant but I think he is starting to bend. And he hates making the 8 hour drive down to Atlanta. I stayed with my daughter for 2 months to help out after our granddaughter was born. Leaving absolutely broke my heart. And it doesn't help that the other grandma (our son-in-laws mom) lives close to them and is at there house frequently. I fear that my granddaughter will think of me as the stranger who only visits for a few days every now and then. Logically I know this probably wouldn't be the case but the fear is still there none the less. So I am hoping this spring we will be putting our house on the market and coming closer to making my dream come true.

Nana813 on 2014-01-20 10:58:13

Our son, daughter in-law, 5yr old granddaughter, and 3yr old grandson moved to New Zealand Nov 2011 after living 5 minutes away from us since our granddaughter was born. We had our granddaughter at our house at least 5 times a week and our grandson too but not for as long as our granddaughter. He was only 1yr at the time and a lot of work. My hubby would pick him up after he got off work and bring him home with him. We were so close to our granddaughter that she loved spending nights with us and her and I would have our special times together when Grandpa was gone or working. I cried for 3 weeks after they left and still feel the hole in my heart from them being gone. We Skype 1x a week if possible, we write letters, we've been to New Zealand 3 times since they left for 3 weeks at a time. Our time with them is wonderful and special but we always have a year without them in our daily lives. We do have other grandkids and love them all but still have that empty space from the 2 that are gone. Every month we go see our 2yr and 3mth old granddaughters that are 4 hours away, and we will be going to see our other 3mth old that should be coming home from NICU any day( she was born in Oct 2013 but not due until Jan 2014). They are an hour away from us. And we have twin grandsons that live a few miles away that we see 1x a week. So it's not like we don't have things to keep us busy. I just need a way to get past them moving to NZ and the pain I feel without them. Any suggestions ? Thank you for letting me vent.....

poordaddy on 2014-01-01 19:11:28

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