Should we make plans to drive several hours and stay in a hotel, after flying across the country with our young kids (who'll be ages 6.5 and 4.5) next Spring, so that they can meet my husband's elderly relatives, with whom he has always had very good relationships... that is, until his octogenarian Grandmother said something to him over the phone that caused my husband to suddenly have a strong negative/ambivalent reaction to the whole idea?
posted by hush to Human Relations (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My husband asks the hive mind this question - we've been in the initial stages of planning a detour to an already-reserved trip this Spring to meet up with a group of old friends and all stay in a large rental house together. On this proposed detour, we were thinking we would arrange to drive down to visit my husband's extended family. We would get a hotel so as not to impose too much on his elderly family members. The group trip location is about a 2-hour drive from where my husband's 86-year-old Grandmother, his Great-Aunts (his grandmother's 83-and 91-year-old sisters), and his 49-year-old Aunt (his grandmother's daughter) live on the US East Coast, 3 time zones away from us. Culturally, Grandmother and Great-Aunts are first-generation Americans raised in NYC by Italian immigrant parents, and they don't ever travel. We have not been able to visit them in 5 years, but when we last visited them, our oldest kid was just a baby and we all had a really wonderful visit at the Great-Aunts' shared home. In the meantime since our last visit, we had another child, who is now 4-years-old - and she is Grandmother's first and only great-granddaughter, who Grandmother always says she is so eager to eventually meet.
We were looking forward to finally introducing our son and daughter to who we thought were "the healthiest members" of my husband's dysfunctional extended family. By choice, since 2007, my husband has not had a relationship with his mother, who like us, lives nowhere geographically near any of these women. His mother has never met our children. During our last visit in 2008, we felt extremely supported in my Husband's choice to cut his mother out of his life. Aunt (husband's mother's younger sister) made a point of saying to us "It's sad my sister is missing out on knowing her grandchild, but honestly nobody is judging you for not having Husband's Mother in your life. We have all known for years she is not well mentally." Which is in total agreement with how we understand his Mother's mental health condition to be.
My husband spoke to one of his Great-Aunts the other day who reported that she and his Other Great-Aunt are not in good physical health - one is in rehab after a broken hip, the other was recently in the ER for breathing difficulties. They say they might be able to meet us at a restaurant for lunch or dinner "if one or both are still alive in 5 months" (her words, oy) and we offered to treat them and let them choose the restaurant if they're feeling up for it. They tentatively accepted.
Then my husband spoke to his Grandmother over the phone recently, to check in and to also thank her for the Christmas gifts she sent to our children. During the nice conversation, his Aunt (Grandmother's daughter) came up. Grandmother suddenly changed her tone of voice and chided him: "You know, you should really call her AUNT FirstName." Huh?
After they hung up, my Husband was feeling really surprised and discombobulated to have been harshly called out by his Grandmother, for, for... not using the word "Aunt"? It took him by surprise because she has never treated him like that in his entire life. Not even when he was a child.
Now he's feeling alternately irritated with and confused by his Grandmother's remark, because he doesn't know which (if any?) meaning Grandmother was trying to communicate to him. It could have been something like:
1) Grandson, I wish you would call my 49-year-old daughter "AUNT" FirstName, even though you're 36-years-old and all, because I need to hear you to acknowledge that FirstName is your Mother's Sister even though you have cut your mother (my daughter) out of your life.
2) Grandson, I'm hinting to you that your Aunt is actually mad at you and that she is holding a grudge against you because once upon a time you called her FirstName instead of "Aunt" FirstName.
Or both meanings? Or none of the above? Who knows? Grandmother definitely stirred the pot!
His Grandmother's odd statement caused my husband to reflect on the fact that his Aunt has not returned very many of his texts or calls in the last year or so, but then again, they had a nice phone chat recently, which she ended after a few minutes because she was getting out of the car for work. And during whole the conversation Aunt was warm and pleasant, as she always has been. His Aunt recently opened a restaurant and has understandably been very busy, but my Husband had thought nothing of the implications of his Aunt's overall hard-to-reach-ness until his Grandmother's comment started to make him wonder … if Aunt has maybe been holding some sort of grudge because he's been calling his Aunt by her First Name instead of Aunt First Name. Or something? Gah.
If this sounds ludicrous and over-thinky, well, Husband says that grudge-holding is apparently A Thing in that family, and from family lore I've heard, I believe it's easily possible. But we thought Grandmother and Aunt were certainly the exceptions to the crazy, up to now they've been nothing but kind, so this whole thought process leaves us at a bit of a loss. Now my husband is questioning the point of us even making the trip detour. He's wondering if he would be happier with his memories of these folks as they used to be instead of going out there and trying to create new memories, given his Great-Aunts' illnesses, his Grandmother's odd statement, and his Aunt's very busy schedule and/or possible passive-agressive grudge-holding.
In our shoes, would you still try to make time on this already-planned trip to detour and drive several hours with the kids (and get a hotel) in order to briefly visit these relatives? [To be clear: we are going on the trip to see our friends anyway, so the trip's on no matter what. We could easily cancel the proposed detour portion (to drive/hotel stay to see these relatives) probably without any hurt feelings on their end because of the Great-Aunts' stated health concerns and the fact that we haven't made firm plans with them.] Your thoughts?