I don’t think much about it until relatives come from out of town. All the little and big things about living in proximity to family become very apparent when compared to the experiences of “visiting” relatives. (Now please, sisters, I love that you are far away because I get to live vicariously through your distance. I’m just noting what becomes evident to me when you come to visit and I see the difference between our experiences.)
Yes, I see mom and dad weekly – more so during vacation times. Mom loves to go out to lunch on Saturdays but she will take any excuse to leave the house and eat out. We both don’t like to cook and having lunch together usually kills two meals out of the day; neither of us want dinner after going out and any leftovers can be reheated for our spouses.
But, the conversations are pretty similar from week to week. I rehash my week of teaching and mom shares what “the ladies” are talking about at her quilt group on Wednesday. During the summer, I get the results of the Tuesday sailing races. Sometimes mom can talk dad into going out too, if there aren’t going to be any extra errands afterwards. Our conversation is greatly enriched if there has been a visit from the “little girls” – who are actually getting quite tall. If there is news from my siblings, that gets added to the mix, but that doesn’t happen much. (Hint, hint)
Mom feels guilty because calls to Bill are answered with “what can I do for you mom?” She is often just checking in and doesn’t need anything. But both Bill and I know “we’re on tap” if needed and anticipate those phone calls where we are needed and we are glad to be close by. Now that Bill is moving to the island, he won’t be as accessible but I know both he and I would drop everything to help if the need arises.
So yes, we get the benefits of seeing mom and dad more often but we also have a heightened awareness of their aging and that we are the closest ones to respond. A few weeks ago I called in the evening and got the answering machine. That was unusual but I waited awhile and called back. When I got the machine again, I called Bill to see if perchance mom and dad had been invited to their place for dinner. When the answer was no, both he and I were a bit worried. So since I live a little closer and am a whole lot less encumbered by family, I drove over to see if they were all right – which of course, they were. The phone was just not working. That was easy. I’m sure it will get trickier in time.
Besides mom and dad, there are other family members in my midst. I have quite a few in-laws in the area and my own children live close by. Yes it gets complicated and relations get strained but I still feel very lucky. When I hear my daughter speak about how much she likes being close to most of her family members I know she’s come to realize a value we passed on without even trying – family is important, proximity is a gift, stay in touch no matter what.