JP's mom called on Monday morning. It was very early, and thinking it was the phone alarm JP invariably leaves on even when he knows he isn't going to swim practice, I swished my finger across it to turn it off and rolled over. Only to hear a "hello" and belatedly remember a "301" Potomac, Maryland number flashing on the screen. So I hit the phone again and to make sure it was quiet. A few seconds later, as I was processing what had just happened and realizing that perhaps it wasn't the alarm clock talking to me, the phone rang again.
I brought it to JP who'd been in the family room feeding Cora because she didn't eat all weekend and decided 5 a.m. would be delicious, and he spoke to his mom for the first time in nearly 4 years. His dad had had a heart attack early in the morning, been taken to the hospital via ambulance, and undergone angioplasty with stent replacement. He was recovering in ICU and couldn't talk, but she thought JP would want to know. He said thanks, got the hospital name and room number, and that was it.
He's now spoken to his dad twice since our 5 a.m. wake-up call. He's home resting now, insisting that the whole thing wasn't a big deal and complaining about the diet and mild exercise plan the doctor wants him to follow. Neither parent has acknowledged the fact that we haven't seen or heard from them since 2010 and we have two grandchildren they've never met. They haven't used the calls to inquire about the kids or me or their son and his life that is so different than it was when they last saw him at his MBA graduation. Our kids don't know who they are. Landon asked, once, if daddy had a mom and dad. I said yes, he does, and they live in Maryland. He said okay, and left it at that. I don't think he's made the association yet that normally dad's mom and dad would be another Papa and Gigi that he could talk to and visit and love. It's very strange having grandparents who are alive, but who don't exist for your children.
JP and I used to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing his parents. The latest fabricated drama, the bizarre codependent relationship between his mother and grandmother, the boundaries we were setting and would continue to set in the future. For Landon's first 2 years we put up with their nonsense because beneath it all, they were great grandparents to him. They adored Landon and since JP doesn't have any siblings and I just had my unmarried two, we felt that any additional family in our kid's life was a good thing and worth the difficulties, because at the time the difficulties only affected JP and me, and not Landon. But then Claire was born and they kept setting up visits and then refusing to come because of one made up reason or another and the made-up drama got worse and it all culminated in the most insane phone call I've ever been party to in my life where his mom accused me of all sorts of untrue things (for example, not loving JP or my mother) and they refused to come out for their third attempted to visit to meet our now-9-month-old baby Claire. Landon was old enough to know they were coming and be excited about the visit and confused when they changed their minds (and even more confused when he heard one particularly unhinged message being yelled into our answering machine) and JP was done. In truth, he'd been done for years, but had kept up the relationship at my stubborn insistence that it could be fixed if we just tried hard enough. "Don't call back again without an apology for your behavior," he said, and his mother never called us again.
Now we never talk about his parents. If he thinks about them, I have no indication, and when I think about them, it's to be sad that the situation is what it is. I love family and the loss of what could be distracts me at times. But I know that what I think family could be and what his family could be are two different things and after 9 years of trying to make JP work things out, I stepped back in 2010 and let him dictate the terms of our relationship with them. Which, since his mom has never swallowed her pride to even call us, is no relationship at all. And any time I start to feel bad about them, alone in their big house with their only child estranged and their grandchildren unable to recognize them in a crowd, I remember that I didn't do it. Though we'd discussed one day having to cut them out of our lives, in the end, they did it for us. And while I'm not sure what we would have done had his mother tried some halfhearted attempt at reconciliation after we'd all cooled off, the fact is that she didn't. Us, our kids- her awesome, loving, wonderful would-be grandchildren, aren't worth enough to her to risk reaching out. And when I remember that, I get mad, and am again comfortable with our lack of contact.
Now JP's mom has called three times in the last two days. He hasn't answered. He calls his dad's cell phone if he wants to check in with him, and she hasn't left a message, but I think she thinks we're all back on track now and I fully expect that if I were to answer the phone she'd ask what the weather is like here right now and launch into a complicated story about a coworker I don't know doing something I don't care about.
So I don't know what will happen with that. Other than JP's renewed obsession with heart healthy diets (his paternal grandparents both died of heart attacks at young ages, his dad's brother died of a heart attack in his 50's, and his dad is now the longest living member of his family at 68, all facts that do genuinely frighten me) and his phone ringing frequently without his answering it, nothing has changed. But it's certainly a fork in the road- an opportunity to build back some bridges if we wanted to, namely by pretending the burnt ones don't exist and never did. JP doesn't want it, and I'm sticking by my promise to let him choose, but they're back in my mind (and on our missed calls log) in a way they haven't been in a long time.