Got this horrible, possibly irrational fear that I'm never going to see my son again, despite him only being seven ks away..
My husband, Al, has probably seen his parents an average of four times a year in the past 25 years, if that. My two kids barely know their grandparents on Al's side.
With Al's parents it started way back, in 1984, when Al and I decided to get married on 'Grand Final Day'. That's The Australian Football League Grand Final Day. (It's a big deal. Think Wembley; think Superbowl.) It was a good date for us, it being the anniversary of when we got together in 1979. (Already had admired Al, from a distance, for a few months that year. He was my gorgeous, tall basketball coach. He'd probably go on an offenders' register now for dating a member of the club!)
Was also a good date because we could book a venue at short notice. It being GFD, the date was up for grabs.
When we told Al's parents, on a Sunday evening dinner visit, that we were getting married on that date, Al's dad, Eddie, stood up with such force that his chair flung over backwards. (Eddie had suffered a stroke a few years earlier so the swiftness of this move was alarming in itself.)
"No one will turn up on Grand Final Day," he pronounced.
"Our friends will," I said pointedly, equally sure.
"Well I won't," he said, and stumbled off to his bedroom.
Al's mum started clearing the dishes, or something. We left. Visited my parents, who were ecstatic. My dad kissed Al on the face, so delighted was he.
We did visit Al's parents again before the wedding. I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince my mother-in-law-to-be to attend her eldest son's wedding, with or without her husband.
"You know when people fill in surveys and you have to say what religion you are," she said, daintily, smiling. She was a tiny, bird-like woman with short, dyed blond hair. Her knees were drawn up under her. "Well Eddie always writes 'football'," she said, as if this was a plausible excuse for missing your first-born's wedding. To me, aged 27, it sounded moronic.
"I can't come to your wedding without Eddie," she went on, still smiling. "It'd be a slight to him. I couldn't do it." And that was it.
We sent them an invitation anyway. Think my mum still has the card Al's mother sent in reply: "We regret that on this occasion we are unable to attend." The stock printed message inside.
The front pew on the groom's side was conspicuously empty at our church wedding.
After that, Al didn't contact his parents for two years.
While we were in Europe for six months the following year, Al's parents sold up his childhood home to make a 'seachange'. They somehow failed to give Al a forwarding address. He visited their seaside town one day and sought them out, following his instincts and his brother's vague description of where they then lived. I didn't go; wanted nothing to do with them.
After we had our kids we visited a few times, but visits were tense and fraught. Despite all the fixed 'default position' smiling on his mum's part, they didn't seem to enjoy the children. She'd dash in front of them, lifting tempting objects out of their reach, prompting Pete's frustrated crying. Why did she have to keep her prickly succulents on the coffee table anyway? It was clear Pete was going to go for them.
(BTW, when I was 23 and had just started going out with Al, she told me she'd had her four kids and I shouldn't expect her to baby-sit mine!)
What does it all matter now, 25 years later?
Suppose karma is kicking in. My son's girlfriend - perhaps I should call her 'partner' now they're living together - doesn't like me - remember the on-line dissing? And I don't know how I'm going to live without my beautiful boy for the next 25 years.
(Just read this to Al, who's having an entirely different response to Pete moving out.
"Is this how you remember things?" I asked. Couldn't bear to hurt Al - the kindest, nicest person.
"Roughly right," he said.)