Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Family Ties

Monday, May 4, 2015
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Eden Maheras

My original plan for this blog entry was to focus on the simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching experience I had in Hawaii in March, when I invited my 3 ½ year old to share in a ritual of spreading some of JP’s ashes.

But I’m going to have to save that for next time because last night my MIL shared some news I never expected to hear. Her ex-husband is moving in with my sister-in-law, and she (SIL) is going to take care of him now that he is in poor health, broke, and going through another divorce.Without getting into too many specifics of family affairs, I will give this background context: my late husband saw his family as being the quintessential happy family, until he found out in his 20s that his parents were getting divorced, that his dad was moving on to a new relationship. The man severed ties. He treated his family abominably. My MIL handled with it the way she has dealt with the many blows she’s been dealt: with grace, strength, and looking to her faith, family, and friends for support.
Quite honestly, to me, it sounded like the man had a mid-life crisis that turned into a bit of a mental break. He never made any effort to include his children or grandchildren in his new life. In all the time JP and I were together, he saw his father once. All he said about the visit was that it did not go well. But it was something he had to do, before we got married, I think in part for reassurance that he was not going to turn into his father.
We did not invite him to our wedding. We did not tell him when our son was born. A few times, I did bring up the topic of “what will we tell Max when he asks?” and JP’s stance was “if/when he asks, we tell him that he’s gone.” When JP died, his father did not come to either memorial service. He did not reach out to my MIL, or to me. When my SIL asked if he was coming to the funeral, his reaction was “why would I? He hadn’t talked to me in years.” While part of me was sad that Max would never know his paternal grandfather, especially in light of JP’s death, I mostly just hoped the man would pass away before we had to cross that particular rickety bridge. Max has three absolutely wonderful, amazing, and doting grandparents. So what if he shares blood ties to some stranger across the country, far from the rest of the family. Case closed, right?

And then I get the call, saying that “That Man” is moving in with my SIL, at least until she can get him settled in an apartment.
My first reaction was outrage that my SIL would do this to my MIL, who basically takes care of her entire family. I know she was “daddy’s little girl,” but in the many years since her parents divorced, only her mother has been there for her. How could she bring this person to live near her mother? If JP were alive, he would have fought tooth and nail against this. And then the question came up – what to do when Max and I visit this summer? I told my MIL I would defer to her, and we would talk after she sees him and gets a pulse on things. Part of me is hesitant to be the one who prevents Max from having any exposure to his grandfather.

I went to bed confused.I woke up confident in my decision – Max will not meet this man. It would be an insult to my wonderful MIL, and to my husband’s wishes, to let him meet Max and see what an absolute treasure he is. This man does not deserve that.
It will be difficult – it’s going to mean possibly causing a rift in my relationship with my SIL, and my nieces. It’s going to mean having to be VERY adamant that no one even talk about the man in Max’s presence. It’s going to add a level of difficulty and stress to the trip we are taking out to visit them this summer, and every time after. It’s going to come back to haunt me in some way, I’m sure.But, as strongly as I feel about Max having family ties that go beyond my relations, I just cannot let this man into his life. It will be difficult to remain strong in this conviction, I’m sure. But I know in my heart that JP would not have wanted him in Max’s life, in my life.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to come across a situation like this, but man – it is one widow challenge I seriously never expected to encounter…


Good luck Eden, Remain strong in your decision.

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