It’s been a long spring and summer so far and I haven’t kept up on this…
Sam Sr. passed away this spring. Sam sent an e-mail telling me to tell Max that his grandfather died. Nothing else: nothing about if it was peacefully in his sleep, if he’d been ill, when the services were; he didn’t include a “Tell Max I love him” or words of sympathy for our son.
I felt it was important for Max to go to his Grandfather’s funeral, but I also didn’t want to run the risk of taking the focus off of Sam Sr. by attending myself. I was worried that if I went, Sam and Francine might start in on why Max hadn’t seen their family in years. I also didn’t want to have to defend myself and the court’s decision to pull Sam’s visitation rights or explain that just because Sam couldn’t see Max, it didn’t mean Sam Sr. couldn’t. My sister and I talked about the situation and possible complications, and she and her husband agreed to take Max to the funeral.
Max got new slacks, and he got to pick out a new dress shirt and a new tie along with a tie bar. We researched tie knots and how to tie them so we’d get it right. It was the first time he’s pulled together a more formal outfit on his own and he was nervous about making sure he looked nice enough to make Grandpa Sam proud. He did. He would have no matter what, but he did a good job.
The day of the funeral, my sister and her husband arrived and accompanied Max to the funeral and they walked back afterwards so they could talk about anything Max wanted to talk about. Max kept talking about his Grandpa Sam and the funeral when they got back to our apartment. Max found new connections with his Grandpa: “He was a trickster, just like me, Mom.” “You know that one song I like, about the ring of fire? Well, that singer, Johnny Cash, was Grandpa Sam’s favorite.” He also found out new things about his Dad. “He has a new girlfriend. She was more upset about Grandpa being dead that Dad was, or at least, she looked sadder. She cried more.” “She looks like Grandma S,” (my mom). “He looks different and I must look different, Mom.” And then he stopped talking.
I spoke with my sister about a week later while Max was at a friend’s house. It turns out she had to introduce Max to Sam three times before Sam realized Max was his son. That broke my heart more than a lot of the other things Sam has done. I know he hadn’t seen Max in years; I know that Sam’s addictions have probably hurt his memory retention, but I can’t even imagine how much this hurt Max. Three years. Max hasn’t changed THAT much. He generally looks the same at 10 as he did at 7, a little taller, his hair is longer, but he’s still Max. The same coloring, same facial structure, same eyes, same walk. Max.
I guess to be fair, I should also mention that Sam then introduced Max to his aunt, uncle and cousin as if they’d never met before (even though they have and each of them recognized Max right away). He also repeatedly made the mistake of telling Max that his cousin was his Aunt. I don’t know if Sam’s cognitive abilities have declined that much, or if he was on something to get through the funeral, but I’m finding it really hard to forgive Sam for hurting our son this way. I know it’s not rational, my anger and hurt on Max’s behalf, but it’s there.
I think one of the other hard things for me about losing Sam Sr. has been letting go of the guilt over Max not seeing him. When Sam lost visitation rights because of his relapse and events with Ingrid, both Sam Sr. and Francine stopped seeing Max also. I felt like in trying to protect Max from Sam’s addictions and abusive behavior, that I had also robbed Sam Sr. of time with Max, and Max time with his grandfather. I did try: invitations were sent to Sam Sr. for birthdays, Grandparent’s Day’s at Max’s school. Offers that we could arrange time for him to do stuff with Max were extended. Only one offer was accepted: a Grandparent’s Day tea right after Sam lost visitation. I recognize that it wasn’t my choice to keep Max away from Sam Sr., but it’s still easy, sometimes, to forget and let the guilt sneak back in.
Max still doesn’t want to talk about his father, but he will talk about his grandpa. I hope he knows he can talk to me about anything.