Jeopardy question: When is it ‘too little, too late’?
In 1989 I met a family that a year later I would become a part of. I had come from a place and family from the mid-west U.S. and was about to enter a very American-European family on the east coast. I was insecure about fitting into a family. Put me in a room with 30-100 strangers and I was the life of the party. Put me in a living room with 15 folks that were about to welcome me as sister, daughter, etc, and I had utter stage fright.
I came from a family where I had not hugged anyone in years, except a side arm hug at the airport and a bear hug from my mother who had longed for that for years herself. I entered a house where every face was kissing me and every arm was hugging me. But I still felt outside. Why?
I didn’t know how to express affection that way. I wanted it, but I was afraid of it. I questioned their motives, I assumed they didn’t accept me. Didn’t like me.
Didn’t get me.
I knew I stood out like a proverbial sore thumb. What my future husband thought was exciting and brilliant they raised an eyebrow at. Or did they? All of them? Surely not. Certainly at least half those issues were in my head. That didn’t make them less real, but it did keep me from forming solid relationships during the opportunity that I had, that small window of time before we moved 1k miles away, many of the others scattering throughout the states themselves in the next few years. Lovely, funny sister and husband, often remembering us at Christmas. Brothers who didn’t all get along as children, forming new bonds as adults.
All of that to say, I got my toes stepped on and walked off, not seeing the toes that I had tread upon myself.
Assume = making an ass out of u and me.
Life’s a school.
Jump ahead 6 years. Meet again at the funeral of my mother-in-law. Show up with the family’s first grandchild who adds new joy to the mix. Make a few more mistakes in judgement. Stay back in the corners and shadows. Watch instead of joining in. Grieve my mother-in-law and support my husband. Grieve my own mother who is terminally ill and will be gone a year later. Go back home knowing I did nothing to help my status in the family.
[That’s not true, you gave them a grandchild, niece, and eventually a cousin.]
Send cards on birthdays. Forget some, catch a few just in time. Jump ahead five years, father-in-law visits in hometown and gets to know his granddaughter and grandson. Great visit but too short. Take a few pictures. Mend a fence.
Jump ahead in time fifteen years. Grown son taller than us brings so much joy to the group. Be surrounded by hugs and acceptance, and more joy than expected. Meet my father-in-law’s girlfriend who treats me like a daughter. Hold my father-in-law’s hands, now wrinkled, and look into his 90-year-old eyes. Hear him say how he always accepted me. Heal.
Drive home, not able to get that moment out of my mind. Heal more.