Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Meeting the "Other Side"

Saturday was a wonderful day with Aunty D and Uncle B and family. An absolutely FABULOUS shopping experience, go karting, a visit to the St. Louis Blues training facility (ok, seriously, no wonder they suck -- they train at a MALL on 3/4 ice.) Followed by a really relaxing visit with the extended family, Greg and I were ready for one last batch of introductions.

We were heading to meet Great Grandma, who raised Sr., and his mother, Grandma, as well as any other extended family members that showed up. They live very near the St. Louis airport so it worked out wonderfully to go meet them on our way home. But still, it was hard.

We pulled up to a little, tiny house and walked in the front door. The house was overflowing with "stuff". Stuffed animals, hundreds of crystal items, picture frames filled and not filled, random and assorted items covered every available space. We were met at the door by both the Grandma and Great Grandmother.

Sr. had warned us that his mother was still a drug user, and had actually not wanted us to meet her, but there she was. High. Track lines down both arms. Shakey. Either coming down or still high. Unable to really carry on a conversation, obviously happy to see Greg, but lost in her own world.
Great Grandma was in pajamas when we got there, but later changed. She seemed very nice but has had a very hard life. I hope seeing Greg brought her some comfort. As she listed off the son, and grandchildren and great grandchildren she has lost to drugs, gang wars, violence and of course my two sons to the foster care system my heart really broke for her. Greg was very taken aback by the obvious life style differences & their very obvious poverty.

Great Grandma talked for quite awhile about how she had the boys alot when they were babies, prior to their seizure by DFS. We knew this, and I think it was good for Greg to hear from her.
Sr's sister and 4 of her 5 children showed up for a visit. She is the relative I see the closest physical resemblance to Greg, and one of her sons was very close in appearance to Eric.

Everyone was happy to see us both. This side of the family seems to "get it" and that makes it so much easier for Greg. They thanked him for coming, and me for bringing him. They talked so happily about the pictures and letters I have sent over the years.

We only stayed an hour. Greg has gotten progressively more forceful in resisting conversation and physical contact over the week. His 'reserves' of polite hugs and conversation has ran out completely. At the beginning of this trip he would smile and maybe nod when someone asked if he remembered them, but now he is pretty blunt. "No I don't remember you". Its his truth and such a strange situation. This family KNEW Greg. They raised him for 18 months. They had visits for another two and a half years. He does not know them. Its an interesting quandary to watch him, and them, process that.

As we left, they gave Greg $100 to share with Eric. This was VERY hard for Greg to accept gracefully. Not a lack of gratitude, as he was grateful, just an awareness that they needed it so much more than he did. As we drove away he said "That was hard to take mom".

Over lunch we talked about the two families he met, their differences and their sameness. Great Grandma has "been with the same family for 30 years" as household help. She has struggled, but has held a job for a very long time. Sr, and his family, accepted US into their family. Not just Greg, but Greg AND I. They asked him questions about HIS life. They thanked me for bringing him. Sr. over and over again encouraged Greg to make something of his life. Be thankful for what he had been given and to use it. To listen to his parents. They gave a gift for him to bring home to Eric. They loved seeing the pictures of Greg's other brothers and asked about them too. Greg left with a positive sense of their family and a desire to get to know them more. Would that have changed if our visits were longer? Maybe. But that's for another post coming on my thoughts regarding regrets.
His feelings for L and her family are far more ambiguous. He really loved getting to know the kids. The adults scared him. From my point of view, and I think from his, it was apparent that the visit was about THEIR pain and THEIR loss and not about getting to know Greg as he is today. They expected Greg to be the 18 month old that missed them, and only knew them as his family, instead they got a 13 year old with a whole other life that he wanted to integrate them into. They didn't appear to want that part of Greg. Or if they did, their own lack of skills, personal life experiences, and mental health issues prevented them from showing it in a way that Greg could accept. They wanted Greg, but they wanted him on THEIR terms.

Deep down, I do believe he is very angry but not able to express it yet. I asked what he wanted to do for L's birthday next week. Absolutely nothing. More than that, adamantly absolutely nothing. As he pointed out to me, they didnt give him anything, and didnt give us anything to bring home to Eric. And Greg wasn't caring about an actual gift, because a $5 t shirt would have been enough, it was the idea that they didnt think about it from his perspective, or from Eric's perspective back at home. He has some processing to do in this regard, I am sure.

We arrived at the airport. Happy. Practically Ecstatic. We are both so, so ready to get home.

And then, THEN began our adventure with United Airlines and how they tried to kill us.


Anonymous said...

wow so much to process...the woman in the first photo looks like she is dying or way way strung out...I am sorry that your son had to see that up close and personal...

I am glad that they were a little more welcoming...

Anonymous said...

Jen, I am so happy to have met you and to benefit from your experience and insight. Reading your posts about the trip to Missouri has been a powerful experience for me. Thank you.

A question: is the photo on this post of Greg and his grandmother or Greg and his Great Grandmother. The photo is disturbing and deeply moving at the same time. Love and respect to you and Shelby and the kids, Ann

Unknown said...

Ann & Debi - Thanks.

The woman in the photograph is actually the GREAT grandmother and the one in a better position. The grandmother's photo looks so obviously like someone high, that I thought maybe it was disrespectful to post it.

Lala's world said...

I can imagine that this could take Greg awhile to process, and you of course! so much to take in.