My granddaughter’s bat mitzvah will be held this year. We won’t be invited. Everyone talks about the children as victims of divorce, which is certainly true. But you don’t often hear about the grandparents left behind in the divorce decree.
When my son and his wife divorced, their children were quite young, five and three. Extenuating circumstances meant that they saw their father very infrequently in the first few years after the divorce. They moved to a city far away from ours. Despite our attempts to stay in touch with our grandchildren, and even with a court order in hand, we were consistently rebuffed by their mother. Chanukah presents were returned unopened, checks sent for birthdays remained uncashed, and phone calls went to voice mail.
When our son regained the right to see his children, the damage was done, so deep that it was very hard to repair. Armed with pictures of their aunts, uncles and cousins, we tried to remind the children of those family members that they could no longer remember who longed to be part of their lives. The children looked at the strangers in the pictures with no emotion. When we recounted stories of family events that they were part of, they had no memories since they were so young when they occurred.
We were treated warily – their mother’s parents were the only grandparents they knew. We were dim figures from their past, who appeared suddenly and wanted to be let into their lives. We bought presents, went out for pizza, tried to make new memories of fun and family, but they never could get past the fact that we had been shut out of their lives for so long. We were virtual strangers.
I no longer believe in my heart that she or her brother will ever come back to us.
I try to accept that their mother must feel in some way that she is protecting her children. Obviously she views us as a negative influence. A bitter divorce has made us adversaries where once we were family. The pain and anger she feels at our son has left no room for acceptance for those remaining as victims in the wake of such powerful emotions.
Years ago when all this was new and the pain was raw, friends told me to let go. Forget about the children and move on. “Someday they will realize what was done to them and come back on their own.”
Years have passed. Her bat mitzvah is rapidly approaching, and it will not even occur to my granddaughter to wonder at my absence at this milestone event in her life. While I don’t know the exact date or venue, I do know her Hebrew birthday. (After all, wasn’t I at the hospital within mere hours of her birth? My first precious grandchild who catapulted me from Ema to Bubbie?) I will glance at the calendar and think about her. I will wonder what she is wearing, what kind of dvar Torah she will give, what kind of person she is becoming.
I no longer believe in my heart that she or her brother will ever come back to us. I have much nachas and enjoyment from my other grandchildren but there is always a little piece of my heart that is aching for the missing two.
These children are innocent victims of their parents’ divorce. And we, their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, are casualties of this war as well.