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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving letters and family closeness

My grandmother on my dad's side has written me a Thanksgiving letter for the past several years. Actually, she remembers every holiday, and often sends cards for Memorial Day or Easter! Very sweet. Her cards are the only contact I have with her, and the correspondence we've established is the only way I know her at all.
Pages of tiny writing!

See, apparently my dad was not close to his mother at all (maybe his father, too, I don't know - his father died before my parents married and I've never heard a word spoken about the man). We visited my dad's family only a handful of times ever growing up - perhaps three or four times. I only remember three visits, but there may have been others before I was born or when I was an infant. This lack of contact was the norm in our house - we didn't exactly see my mom's family much either, and she was really terrible about staying in touch (once my grandparents found out my mom was pregnant after the baby was born!).

My parents are just really bad about communicating with family. And that taught their kids, by example, to think family was unimportant. We never sacrificed to help a family member. We never let a family member offer help, or bear our burdens, or do us a favor. We never put family first. It never happened then, so it really doesn't happen much now. It's sad that none of my grandparents have ever met their youngest grandchild, and it's sad that my parents never call their children (or their parents!) on Christmas.

So I'm trying to coax the family out of that mold. I go out of my way to be the sibling who calls everyone else, who sends Christmas cards, who visits. I ask the other kids, "Have you heard from so-and-so?" to remind them to call their brothers. I gave up on trying to involve my parents, who are quite crazy and a lost cause, but I don't want all of their kids to continue the pattern. My childhood was bizarre in a lot of ways, so I always told myself growing up, "You can't change how you were raised, but you can change how you let it shape you." I don't let the unusual family communications affect me, and I'm happy my grandmother and I have been able to establish a relationship, even though it really began when she was in her 80's and I sent her a wedding invitation!

How about you? Is your family close? Who are you seeing or calling for Thanksgiving?


  1. I enjoyed getting this window into your life Gracie. Gosh, such a reminder to me of how important it is for us to set the model for our kids in regards to family. I came from a family more similar to yours. not too close. Really not a family first type but my husband comes from a very close family. This is a huge part in why we will move back to oregon. If I had my way, I'd just stay here in Asheville. But it isn't just me. I'd be taking so much from my kids if we did that...the opportunity for them to grow up with their grandparents/aunt/cousins. They'd miss out. And then when it came time for them to be close with us when they are grown...well, they'd probably fall back on what they were taught. So I'm conscious of making the life for my kids that I never had. In fact, I just forced myself to call my in-laws because I know how much it means to them. This led to my kids all talking to their grandparents too. We will miss them this holiday season. :(

  2. I like what you said about not being able to change how you were raised but being on control of how it shapes you. And kudos to you for taking steps to change that pattern.

    I grew up with a close family and extended family on both of my parents' sides. My dad wasn't particularly close to his dad, and he didn't want that to be the case with us. We're still close, still celebrate holidays with extended family. Every couple of years we have a gigantic multi-family slumber party at my cousin's house. It's the best.

  3. It's truly amazing how much our families mold us and impact our thinking. It's very mature and wise of you to recognize these things and try to fix them. My family is close, but it's often surfacy close. Meaning, if there's a huge blue elephant in the room, no one will mention it for fear of a difficult discussion. Keep working on those loved ones! I'm guess it's worth it. ;)

  4. Good for you for breaking the mold and being the one that reaches out and shows you care for other people. My immediate family is very close and we see each other as often as we can. Many of our relationships subsist on text messages and emails these days, but I try to drop cards in the mail to my sisters occasionally. My grandparents were really active in our lives. I only have one living grandparent and I am very very close to her. We mostly exchange emails now (which I think is very cool as she is 90 years old!) but she will occasionally write me a letter, and I will try to do the same. I have the WORST penmanship so letter writing is a challenge for me (err, for the recipient really. Ha).

    I am glad that you have found a way to stay in touch with your grandma. I am sure those letters are something you will always treasure!