We are leaving today. It was an eventful trip during which we saw our daughter (my stepdaughter) transform from a mother of one to a mother of two; our granddaughter change from a sibling-to-be, to an actual sibling and our grandson age from -2 days old to be more than one week old.
I’ve done a pretty good job of inoculating myself against the pain and sadness of leaving. Not that I did anything overtly; it seems to go with the territory of being a step father to children met in their 20’s. I do love both my stepdaughters. The thing is, not being involved with them as children gives me no standing whatsoever. I agree that I should not be privy to intimate details related to the newborn and so I take my leave when it is feeding time.
Conversations not had
I suppose that I could become more involved in the lives of this budding family, but my aversion to being rejected keeps me at bay. There are conversations that do not happen. I probably don’t start them because I know, or can imagine with a great deal of confidence, the outcome. I don’t ever want to be confronted by the phase, “What do you know, you’ve never been a father,” in any form. Avoidance is the better part of valor and I would rather practice avoidance than be hurt. My sadness and hurt almost immediately turns to anger.
Every time I was asked if I wanted to hold the baby I did. It was great, and I could easily have gotten addicted to holding him. I did not allow myself to do that. When I think about it, I find it strange that I could have an extreme interest in my older, low functioning autistic brother and border on disinterest in my new grandson. Is it an unwillingness to become entangled? Did I learn my lesson from childhood? I don’t know.
I feel bad for my wife, who will feel the sting of leaving much more than me. She knows what she will be missing. It is easy for me to compartmentalize and to offer that advice to her, but I know that the pain and sadness for her will be terrible. She can’t seem to stuff it down like I do.
I have the answer for myself: If I’m at arm’s length already, what’s the use of getting closer? As for my wife, there is no answer, except for a continual grieving process each time we visit and leave.