As usual, I have cartoons to thank for that question. Alright, so it was probably inevitable...but I'm convinced that seeing characters like Kai Lan and Little Bear have fun adventures with their grandparents (YeYe for Kai Lan and Grandmother and Grandfather Bear for Little Bear) has a lot to do with getting SweetPea's mental gears spinning.
The question came up one night when I was reading SweetPea a Little Bear story at bedtime. My brilliant answer? First...a long pause as I desperately scrounged around my brain for the "perfect answer"...then "You do have a grandpa, sweetie. My daddy, Grandpa Lou, is in heaven where we can't see him...and your Abuelo, daddy's daddy, works out on a boat in the ocean very far away. You met him once when you were very little so you don't remember him." Of course, I got more questions...about where heaven was and why we couldn't see Grandpa Lou. Luckily hearing that it was "very far away" was good enough to quench her curiosity...and gratefully, she didn't ask why Abuelo didn't come to visit when he wasn't out on his boat.
The whole grandparent issue has been...a sensitive one...from day one. It hit close to home, because I never really knew mine. My maternal grandfather died long before I was born (as is the case now with my kids). My paternal grandfather lived far away in the Philippines, separated from my grandmother, and was never close to my dad. I met him only one time in my life and it was for two hours while the plane he was on had a layover in Hawaii. Sure, over the years, I got an occasional letter or card from him, but he was never more than a face in a picture for me. As for my grandmothers, both of them also lived very far from us in Hawaii (my mom's mom in northern New Hampshire and my dad's mom in eastern Connecticut). I talked to them a lot on the phone...and exchanged letters and cards...and had the chance to stay with them over a summer when I was twelve, but honestly, I wouldn't call my relationship with either of them really close. By the time I was in my late twenties, both of my grandmothers and my grandfather were gone. Over the years, I'd seen many of my friends have tight knit relationships with at least one grandparent...and envied them terribly.
When it came around to my kids, I'd hoped it would be different. One of the biggest heartbreaks was having my dad pass away before the kids were born. Not only was he an altogether good guy, but he adored kids and would have been the best grandfather. As for my mom, when I was pregnant with SweetPea, she was still living in Hawaii and we were living in Boston...practically a world away. She eventually sold her house and moved to Boston...only to have us move away to Houston. If there's any upside to the situation, the kids have been able to see her at least once every year since we've been gone. Right after Lil Buddy was born, she came to visit...last year we went to visit her in Boston... and in a few weeks, she'll be back here to stay for a week. For her part, she talks to the kids all the time on the phone or over the internet using Skype and a web cam. But...I can't help but feeling like it's not the same as having Grammy right there to visit all the time. On The Man's side, I can't say things are any better. His parents divorced when he was pretty young and his dad has never been a presence in his life...and hasn't been in his grandkids' lives (no big shocker there). As for his mom, who lives about 45 minutes away on the other side of Houston, let's just say there's a lot of family drama and dysfunctional behavior going on...and we had to make a very tough decision to limit the kids' exposure to it. The bottom line...my kids have little or no direct grandparent interaction...and that...is very sad.
I find myself being envious, yet again, when I see friends who have kids that get to spend a lot of quality time with their grandparents...and the friends I know who have grandkids of their own and get to enjoy being with them. Whenever we are out and about and we run into older people...people who likely have grandkids of their own...who stop and visit with the kids in passing...it always makes me well up. I just want my kids to have a chance of having a close bond with at least one of their grandparents...one that can step up and be a positive force in SweetPea and Lil Buddy's lives.