This is a bit of a weird post for me, and for something I felt so clearly about, it's actually rather hard to get started. Well, let's take a deep breath and just type.
Like all families, we have politics. My relationship with my maternal grandparents has always been a bit distant. My mum had a tough childhood, and was not close to her mum growing up, which meant as kids, we felt the tension during our duty visits at christmas. To be blunt, I hated going round there. As an adult, I occasionally visited, but as we weren't close we soon ran out of polite small talk. Both my nanny and grandad have had a lot of ill health over the years, and I eventually hear about it. My mum may be the eldest of their children, but nobody normally bothers to keep her informed of things like grandad having another heart attack, or nanny collapsing and spending time in intensive care.
About a week ago, my mum phones me with her serious voice on. My first instinct is to worry - has dad's cancer come back again? Are my brothers ok? What about my sisters-in-law, or our nephews? Instead she breaks it to me that nanny has found a large lump in her breast, which they suspect is cancer. My reaction surprised me - I felt nothing. This woman, despite everything, is my blood; my mother's mother. Yet I really couldn't summon up an emotional response. I tried to reassure mum that she would be fine, because I don't want my mum to make herself ill by worrying too much, but for myself I really wasn't upset.
This has made me wonder about what truly makes a family unit in this day and age. I have friends that I would drop everything for, and drive through the night to the far reaches of the country if they needed us, but I have already accepted that, should my grandparents die - and they are both pushing 90 now - I wouldn't be bothered about going to the funeral except to support mum, and if they die once my husband and I are in America, there's no chance of me flying home just for that. Yet the news of a good friend having a miscarriage tore me apart.
Does this make me a bad person? I don't wish my grandparents any ill, that's more destructive for me than it ever would be for them, and I know my nanny realises she was a bitch to mum and has tried to make amends in recent years, but in a way they're just random, selfish old people I have no emotional connection with. My paternal grandparents were a different matter; we were an extended family and while they weren't perfect, I was devastated when they passed away, and still miss my gran in particular.
I think what I'm getting at is it takes more than genetics to make a family. A strong emotional bond is, in many ways, far more important. But what this means is that in these days of social networking and high geographical mobility, we need to look after those people that mean something to us, and make sure they know what they mean to us. As for my nanny, I'm still going to send healing energy her way because it doesn't matter how old you are, hearing you have cancer and there isn't a lot the doctors can do has to be scary, but I think there will always be a huge distance between us, and that actually suits me fine.
Blessed be )0(