Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: OPEN UP A CAN OF WORMS (08/22/19)
TITLE: Family Ties
By Marlene Custer
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“It’s been too long since I saw you last,” Julie chattered as Mary Ann slid into the seat across from her friend.
“Soo, how is your granddaughter and her new little one?” Mary Ann tried to paste on her best smile and show some enthusiasm.
“They are both doing very well. The baby is just precious.” Julie gushed on about the new one as she shoved a picture in front of Mary Ann.
Mary Ann feigned interest as she half-heartedly looked at the picture. Then the dreaded question.
“Do you have any ‘greats’ yet?”
Mary Ann looked down as she twisted her napkin in her hand. “Wellll...that question opens up a can of worms for me.”
Julie’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh! How is that? Do you want to talk about it?”
The friends paused long enough to give their orders to the waitress. Then Mary Ann explained, “Our oldest daughters have given us six grandchildren. Our youngest daughter has no birth children, but married a man with one son. Sophie has a good relationship with that son and we added him to our number of grandchildren.”
Julie placed her napkin on her lap focusing on Mary Ann as she continued. “One of our daughters has three children and was divorced. She recently married a man with grown children that are married. That makes my daughter a grandmother, but I don’t feel like a great-grandmother. I see them occasionally but there is no relationship with his children or their children. It’s not the same dynamics as Sophie’s situation.”
“I think I understand what you are saying.” Julie nodded.
Mary Ann sighed as the waitress set their salads down and refreshed their beverages.
“That’s not all my dilemma,” she continued. “There are more worms crawling out of the can!” They both chuckled.
“Go ahead. I’m still listening.” Julie took a bite of salad and focused on Mary Ann.
“Well...as I was struggling with how to relate to my new son-in-law’s children and grandchildren, one of our grandsons moved in with his girlfriend.”
“Oh, wow,” Julie interjected, a frown furrowing her brow.
“There is more.” Mary Ann concentrated on her salad and muffin while she continued. “While I grappled with how this affects family dynamics, I learned she has two children, but does not have custody of them. I have met them briefly, but of course have almost no interaction with them. The possibility of my grandson marrying the young lady is pretty strong.”
“Oh, Mary Ann. This must be so hard for you.”
A tear threatened to fall as Mary Ann asked, “So my dilemma is how do I answer when someone asks how many grandchildren I have or if I have any great-grandchildren? Do I open up a can of worms and say ‘yes’, or do I say, ‘not yet’, or change the subject?
“I feel your struggle, Mary Ann. Really, I do.” She reached for Mary Ann’s hand. Julie continued. “Today families are so splintered and scattered that warm relationships are hard. And there are so many blended families, you can be sure that you are not alone. I think for now just a simple ‘not yet’ is a fair answer.” Then she added, “Who knows? Someday you may feel close enough to these step grands to count them as your own.”
“I feel better just sharing my thoughts. I guess I was feeling a little envious.”
The waitress cleared their plates as Julie finished her tea.
Then Mary Ann looked at Julie with a genuine smile. “It has been so good to spend time with you again. Before we go, let me see that picture again!”
Based on a true story.
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