Missing Hands

Family holiday time drags so many memories of childhood to the forefront of our minds. Wild chaotic emotions whip us about like beaters mashing taters. Family members die, yet like Nat King Cole sang, the part they played at holidays is “Unforgettable.”

Before my parents divorced, during holidays Gram and Grandpa drove the two-hour journey with a car packed to the brim with delicious food. Seems we stayed up all night sucking up turkey juices and baptizing the bird to transform pale skin to a crunchy golden brown.

We never dreamt of having holiday without family.

We live in a different time.

When we sit down at the table and reach for hands to hold, forming a prayer circle to thank God for His bounty, a set of hands is missing. A different type of death has come upon our families. The title is estrangement and it is a growing phenomenon affecting so many parents, adult children and grandchildren.

Our adult children left our table. Some give specific reasons. Some slip away without a word. It is puzzling. I am amazed at their ability to flip a switch and turn off the memories which live on forever in our minds and hearts. This crush and abandonment can rip joy and peace right out of your life; if you let it! I refuse to let it.

My gift for you this holiday season is sharing some simple ways of how I deal with my son’s choice to live this chapter of his life without me or my husband.

Consider the two case studies:

Imagine two adult children. One approaches her parents and lays out the premise for walking away. “I have decided I don’t believe like you do. I want nothing more to do with you.”

This happened to one of my dear friends who now lives in wonderment. She has no idea where her daughter lives or if she is even alive. But she knows the chasm is due to a difference in belief systems.

Another adult child stops all communication without any explanation. These parents can only surmise from past behavioral patterns, they never met the social status of the son. Withholding the rationale for the estrangement is a sign of narcissistic control and abuse.

Given the two scenarios, here are a few potential self-talk parent responses:

“I wonder what I did wrong? I wonder if she/he ever did love me at all? How is it possible amnesia has struck an entire generation? Where are the good memories hiding? Will he/she ever come back?”

Parents, wake up to the truth. When our adult children walk away from our lives, don’t repurpose and cling to the John Denver’s tear-jerking song “I’m Sorry.”
I often think God made moms and dads so children, small or grown, have someone to blame. But there is a thing called the age of accountability. We have to respect they are people with the right to choose. And those of us missing our adult children have the right to choose as well.

Instead of sadness, I choose to remember the days of love, mutual love and fun.

I open and reread cards and letters and gain peace in the right things we did. Oh, how often we sat on bleachers, gave parties, fed their friends, attended musicals and multiple graduations. And I remember all the precious things and gifts that came my way by his hand. And I am grateful.
We may think our adult children choose not to love us anymore. Perhaps that’s true. But I will cherish and remember the many years when he did.

When my son was little, I told him this story, “If God let me into a room full of little boys, and gave me the right to choose one—I could never have chosen one as precious as the one God gave me. I am so glad you are mine.”

And he signed cards to me throughout his life with that exact phrase.
I’ve kept them all. There was a day. . ..
Now, if you have an empty set of hands at your holiday table, invite someone to complete the prayer blessing circle who has no place to go!

May God bless you and your sweet family,
Your Sister,
Dr. Donna