Should I visit my almost estranged grandmother?
July 13, 2007 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving across the country. I haven't seen my 70 year old grandmother in 5 or 6 years. Should I make the effort to go out of my way and see her before being thousands of miles away? Of course, there's quite a bit

She is my paternal grandmother, and my only living grandparent. (Both of my grandfathers died before I was born and my maternal grandmother died when I was 13.) This alone should be enough to justify me going out of my way to see her before moving. However, there are a few catches.

When I was 18, my father got diagnosed with cancer and died three months later. I saw my grandmother at the funeral, and maybe once since then. After that, her communication with my family (my mother and two sisters) pretty much stopped. I realize that burying a child is an extremely difficult thing to do, and think that it may have just been easier for her to cut off ties. I also realize that we should have probably tried harder to keep in touch with her, but we didn't, and you can't change the past.

As I neared my college graduation, I decided to restart communication with my grandmother. I'm not very good on the phone, so I started sending her letters. For the past two or three years, I have been sending her cards with letters updating her on my life at Christmas, Easter, and Valentine's Day, and sometimes other times if I think about it or find myself at a card store. I always make sure she knows how to get in touch with me, and she's never responded.

I have two options for the move:

Should I stop and see some friends of mine from school, who I am still in touch with, since I will not likely be back on this coast for years and none of us can really afford cross-country travel? Or should I go out of my way to see my grandmother, knowing that her health is not that great, without even knowing if she'll want to see me?

Unfortunately doing both is not an option. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
posted by plaingurl to Human Relations (6 answers total)
Call her. Tell her that you will be in her area and invite her to have lunch or dinner with you. If she says no to that, ask if you can stop by to visit with her for an hour or so (because she may say no to a meal out due to being tired or in ill health, rather than because she doesn't want to see you). If she says no to that, I'd say she probably doesn't want to see you.

Even if she says no to a visit, I'd probably keep writing to her.
posted by decathecting at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2007

Can't you call her and find out if she'd see you? If she will, I think that would be well worth it. If she won't, then obviously you shouldn't waste your time. It seems to me that there should be a way to find out.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2007

Call first, then visit unless she tells you not to.

The fact that she hasn't written back means nothing. Maybe she's just not good at writing back.
posted by The World Famous at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2007

ahh, the phone. I realize this sounds ridiculous, but I honestly hadn't thought of just calling her and asking if she'd like to see me. Thanks folks!
posted by plaingurl at 11:47 AM on July 13, 2007

Really go see her. She doesn't sound nasty, just, um, lazy... Which I admittedly have been the same. And she's family, not like a lazy friend who should be ditched for being too much hassle. Plus she's probably depressed.

Also, re: dealing with lazy/unenthusiastic/depressed people, the more of the "work" you can do, the better. Having a restaurant or two picked out before you call is good. Having a specific time in mind is also good, even if you're actually very flexible, if she says no to a certain time then you can start trying others, but she's probably more likely to say yes to "3 o'clock on Saturday and we'll go to Bob's Restaurant" then "sometime this weekend and we'll see what happens".
posted by anaelith at 12:37 PM on July 13, 2007

This feels like an OTT and late comment to make, but I'll say it anyway:

I hope you get to speak and then go to see her. My grandmother died the day after I refused (at 7 years old) to visit her in the hospital because I was afraid of how ill she was. Even though I was a lot closer to my grandfather (because she had a history of mental illness et al), I have always always felt bad about this refusal.

Even worse, when the last living grandparent of mine finally died, a bad parental divorce meant I found out about his death from the local newspaper. Didn't get a chance to know him, to sit down and eat a meal with him, and I'll forever regret this, even though it's not really my fault.

I'm not saying that either of these relationships would have been particularly good, but trying is better than doing nothing. If she refuses, at least you've spoken to her, and maybe she'll understand through this communication that you care about her, and want to have a relationship. It's better than nothing.
posted by saturnine at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2007

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