My First Letter: Your First Day of School

August 20, 2008

Dear Anne:

You will be having your first day of school sometime this week!

That must be exciting! Or is it scary? How would you describe it to me? Would you call and tell me? Or send me pictures? I would really REALLY love that.

I still have a photo of your father (your biological father, not John who is doing such a wonderful job of being a dad to you) getting on a big yellow school bus in upstate New York in 1986. He was as handsome and proud as you are beautiful.
“What’s ‘bio-log-i-cal father’ mean?”

It means that when you were born you came part from your mother Suzie, and part from my son Brad, the dad you knew for a while when you were a baby and then some weekends til you were four. He went away a two years ago because he had a drug problem, and did not get along with your mom, on what I hope is his ‘low road to enlightenment’.
“What’s en-light-en-ment?”

Good question, I think it’s finding peace (being happy) with yourself and the world and your place in it. It has a lot to do with ‘god’ but we don’t need to talk about that right now. We’ll do it in some other letter.

So your father disappearing does not mean that he doesn’t love you. Or that he doesn’t love me his mom. He always did; nor do I love him any less for making some bad choices. Somehow it was meant for you to be raised by your mom and John, and to have your wonderful sister. And for some reason that I have yet to understand, it was meant right now for me not to be in your life in person. Your mom wants to erase the memory of your former father, Brad, from your life and when you moved, she refused to give me your address or phone number. I can’t even get it from your other grandparents.

Oh well. I get to love you and vision you growing up safe and sound and happy and getting all the things you deserve in life … invisibly. I am the Grand-ma you may not see for a long long time, or ever again. But I will be watching over you from a distance, and sending good thoughts every single day.

I am going to write you these letters and save them. Someday when you’re grown up you may decide to look me up. A very big pile of letters will be waiting for you.

I decided to write to you because it is a way for me to participate in your life on some level. It also should help heal the hole in my heart from not being able to see you and play with you. It fills the time I now have at sixty-three to come and babysit, or help you with your homework, or take you to parks and zoos and theatre and concerts. Time that could have given your dad and very very good mom a break. I get only to imagine doing that.

Pat HansonDo you think you ever will get that old? Sixty-three? I know you can count that high. You did the last time I saw you a year ago. I never thought I’d be 63, but here I am … and I feel and look great. Here’s a picture.

By the way, I would have been a great in-person grand-ma. The way I raised your father (I’ll call Brad that, and John your ‘dad,’) was almost like that. Your ‘other grandfather’ in New York and I didn’t get along either. Sometimes it’s best when that happens, that parents split up and not stick around one another.

So when Brad was six and your uncle Brian was four, I moved to teach college in California and became their long distance mom. They would fly across the country to be with me all summer and one or two school vacations a year. They became bi-coastal and learned the best of both worlds very quickly. We did lots of things I will tell you about in other letters.

This is a lot for one day, before you even go to school for the first time. I can’t wait til you can really learn how to read well! I know you’ve started already.

Just know I love you, and that you will feel this love deep in your heart whether you know it or not.

I hope you get a great great kindergarten teacher.

LOVE,
Your ‘Invisible Grandma’ Pat

25 responses to “My First Letter: Your First Day of School”

  1. Mauricecer
  2. Burden Lundgren

    Pat,

    I’m so grateful to have seen your article in “Crone” which led me to this website. Until I came across the article, I had assumed that my husband and I were utterly alone in our experience. We have 2 children and 3 grandchildren. It’s been 3 years since we’ve have heard from them. Yes, I would like to know my grandchildren again — but our sons lied to us (and taught the children to lie to us) and abandoned us as soon as we were old enough to perhaps require something from them instead of the other way around. We don’t feel that we could ever trust them again. At one point, I thought the grief would never end — but life does go on.

  3. Catherine Badin

    Hi, Pat!
    I think this is a wonderful thing you are doing.. thank you so much!
    I, myself, have a situation I’m dealing with w/my family in Brasil. My half-sister (we had the same father) is a very greedy person and decided to take my share of our Father’s inheritance. When they all moved to big, expensive penthouse apartments in Ipanema, she also told me, “No one here wants you to come down to visit again. You are difficult to deal with!” (this from a woman who is a rage-aholic and chain smokes to suppress her anger), She really did not wanted me to come down again to see how rich they are.
    The sad thing is her two sons have now both had more children whom I have never met.. and whom I probably won’t ever have the opportunity to meet or watch grow up. She has “poisoned” them against me and it has been incredibly, unbelievably hurtful. Her betrayal of me as a sister has been incredibly painful. My father had always wanted us to be friends..
    Thanks for the space to share so openly and honestly..
    oxox C.

  4. Catherine Badin

    Hi, Pat!
    I think this is a wonderful thing you are doing.. thank you.. oxox
    I, myself, have a situation I’m dealing with w/my family in Brasil. My half-sister (we had the same father) is
    a greedy greedy person and decided to take my share of our Father’s inheritance. While I am working on that
    one, she also told me, “No one here wants you to come down to visit again. You are a problem and difficult to deal with!” (this from a woman who is a rage-aholic and chain smokes to suppress her anger). The sad thing is her two sons now have had additional children I have never met.. and, I probably won’t ever have the opportunity to meet and see grow up. She has “poisoned” them against me, and ever since they all moved to big, expensive penthouse apartments on Ipanema, she has not wanted me to come down again to see how rich they are. It has been incredibly, unbelievably hurtful. My father always wanted us to be friends..

  5. Cathy

    Thankyou for this website.It will help me sooooo much .I am still processing not beig able to see our grandbabies.This be very helpful !

  6. Patricia

    Dear Pat,
    It was very hard for me to read the first letter you wrote to your grandchild. My heart kept hurting to think about how you are hurting. You see, my grandchildren are so very special to me and I could not imagine the pain I would suffer – until I read your brave words. I pray they will bring your grandchild to you soon, very, very soon.

  7. debrah

    I am sitting here counting my blessings…..one being….finding your website. My son has married a young woman and they have two children, the oldest being 2 yrs. old and the youngest five months. I sense she might feel insecure around me since my son and I have always had a great relationship. It’s been a struggle to get to know her, they didn’t date as most couples do. They went to school together, but didn’t run in the same circles. They reconnected via a social network when he was in the military. My son was gone most of her first pregnancy. He finished his tour of duty, came home, and they moved in with her parents. Several family deaths kept us from getting to spend much time together when their first child was born. My husband took an overseas job and that made scheduling visits hard. I was accused of not trying hard enough to have a relationship with my new dnl and the new baby. The accusations broke my heart and I’ve been spending every minute since trying to make sense of the situation. I walk on egg shells, I make myself as available as I can. I text, leave voice messages, email and send mental messages asking when it would be a good time to come see their new family. My average is twice a month. They live 35 minutes away…and I get two visits a month if I’m lucky. My son is aware of the way I feel, but he feels caught in the middle. He knows I love them, but he doesn’t know how to make the situation any better. I get lots of empty promises. I am hoping your site will allow me to connect with others in similar situations. A very good friend suggested I write letters. So far I’ve made several photo books. I am able to pull photos from her facebook page…and I use the few photos I take when I get to see them in person. It’s not the way I envisioned it, but it’s a start. I have so much love to offer them; but it has to be on her terms. When she’s angry with my son and his behavior, I feel I am the one punished. I am so tired of hearing they didn’t get the text message or the voice mail….”the baby ( 2 yr old) must have accidentially erased it”. Now it’s almost funny that she would expect me to believe that.

  8. jan keyes

    hi pat,
    how touching this letter is. i’ve journaled for years – at times just as a way to get a few hours of sleep, trying to understand why my daughter ignored me and allowed her four children to do the same. it was especially painful around the holidays. for years i just escaped into my husband’s family’s holiday celebrations and just imagined them participating. i would wish them seeing other kids who were in attendance and how they would enjoy playing together, or imagine my daughter talking to others and gaining some insights or sharing her life… but, of course, none of that happened.
    now she allows me in occasionally. she blocks me from getting too close, however. after a visit she seems to want to keep the relationship at arms length – not allowing the kids to love me too much? well, when my daughter let’s us – i am SO thrilled when i get to visit. my daughter doesn’t know how painful it was for me before, how many nights of sleeplessness, how many tears, how much anger – i now just enjoy the times i can be part of their lives. i know that i could offer so much more, like babysit or take them to a play or watch them in their activities, or talk about things that come up in helping them sort thru their problems – but, i get what i can and take pictures when i am able to see them and remember the good stuff. i look forward to using your idea of writing actual letters – instead of just ‘stewing’. talking to them in writing – each one – allowing their voice to be heard in my conversations with them. i didn’t think of that act as being useful to them at some future date – but, perhaps that gift can be an offering to them in their adult years. nice. it may offer me some relief from that sense of rejection. imagination is a wonderful tool – such a blessing to the heart that just knows there could be more… just creating that space where the spirits dance together – where there are no barriers…its a wonderful place.

  9. Sonia R.

    Pat: When you spoke about being an invisible grandparent today, you have no idea the emotions, carefully leashed for so long, that you released today. My son has not spoken to me in nearly 7 yrs., never invited me to his wedding, never sent me pictures of my only 2 grandchildren, and never responded to my attempts to contact him. As a mother, we pray for the safe delivery of our children, we nurture and protect them, support them through the years. Our reward? To see them healthy, educated, happily married, become parents; and, if we are very lucky to feel mutual love. I feel betrayed by a son I loved more than my own life. I have been struck off his radar like I never existed. He has stolen my health, my rights as a mother, and my rights as a grandmother. I have struggled & prayed to be able to forgive. Recently, I reconnected with a Christian neighbor, and she is the first person who was able to verbalize why I’m still struggling with forgiveness. She said, “It’s easier to forgive someone when they stop hurting you, but it is quite difficult to forgive someone who just keeps the hurt coming.” I felt validated for the first time in 7 yrs. and finally understand why it has been so difficult to forgive my son. I have turned it over to the Lord with complete faith and trust that He has a bigger plan that will be revealed in time. But, “Oh, that hurt caught me so off guard today.” I will pray for you and the reconciliation you are entitled to.

    Sonia

  10. Diane P

    Dear Pat,

    I thank God I found you today.

    Diane

  11. GINGER CHILD

    I was happy to talk to you today, and learn about this website. I sent it on to a friend who is very invisible. I hope it will comfort her.
    I am now a distant grandmother, and I still cry when I think about moving away from my dear 8 year old grandgirl. I have been distant, also to 2 grandsons, now teens,and don’t feel close to then altho my son and I talk fairly often. If they are there, they will tell me hi.
    So, I send my heartfelt love to all of you who are invisible, and trust there will be happy reconciliations one day.

  12. S. Howell

    You are facing the nightmare some of us grammas are terrified of. My two grandkids ages 4 and 5 have become a huge part of our life. Having this continue means walking on eggs to avoid the terrible storm. Every time they grow a year older I feel that they are in a better and better place.

  13. heartbrokennamma

    Hi Pat,
    What a great letter – honest, loving and beautiful. I have written to my four grandchildren also, but have not sent any of the letters.
    I am interested in the fact that you were a “long distance” mother. I,too, moved from the east coast to CA when my son was 6 and had my son for summers and holidays until he was 13, when I moved back east to be near him. If you’re willing, I would very much like to discuss with you your feelings about it all. I have had terrible guilt, even though there were many extenuating circumstances that led to the decision. But I have always felt sad that I missed out on the school years and wasn’t there in the typical sense. He always knew that I loved him and we had a great relationship until he started drinking and married his wife who has cut me off from my grandkids. In the back of my mind, (and one of my fears) is that it is payback for not being the image of the perfect mom and that my son is punishing me.
    There was no incident, no argument – just a sudden, shocking call from my son’s therapist a year ago, that I was to be out of their lives.
    It seems that we have some things in common – I am also 63.
    If you feel inclined, I would like to hear back from you.
    Thanks.

  14. KIANNA

    Dear Pat,
    What a wonderful idea for a website. This seems to be a much needed topic in our society. It will be an inspiration to all the women who read it. I wish you much success and look forward to seeing you at Crones Counsel in Albuquerque this year.
    Kianna

  15. Mnimaka

    What a beautiful way to cope with the unfathomable grief that such separation brings.

    May your efforts in establishing Invisible Grandparents, reward the many who respond to your gentle call, comfort and peace, and become a legacy for their own grandchildren.

    Blessings,
    Mnimaka

  16. Mnimaka

    Oh, the letters I have written my two grandchildren, as I was also an invisible grandparent. Your beautiful “You first day of school” is certainly an exquisite example of the healing words that can come from the heart.
    As I have practiced the same art for nearly twenty years, I can attest to the tremendous power of such letters.
    For me, the dozens of letters I wrote my to absent grandchildren, and with love tucked into a safe place for keeping, were the wings on which I was able to send my love to them in some way for their comfort and mine.
    Since that time, I have been able to correspond with these two grown children and be with,wrap my arms around, laugh and cry and celebrate with each of them: One at her graduation, Magna Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina and the other before he deployed with his Army Ranger unit to Afghanistan. After all the years that we were separated by the irrational behaviors of their mother, my own daughter Elizabeth, I was able to give them each a small packet of the letters I had written. Conversations I would have hoped to have with them at various times of their growing up, with small encouragements, some of my own family memories, and my assurances of our continuing connection across the miles and across the years. I can’t tell you how glad I am that those letters were written, and that I am able, now in my seventies, as I hold copies of them and know that I was able, if only to the wind, to convey the love and, with all it’s pain, the richness of my life.

    This is such good and important work that you do Pat. I am now in my seventies, and having suffered many losses through death and the small deaths of separation, hold my copies of many of these letters very dear.

    And hello Marilyn Sackariason. You and I have met at many Crones Counsels, and perhaps you have even, as I have, taken a couple of Pat’s workshops there. You and I first met at a small workshop given by the fabulous crone, Ruth Gardner when we were in Colorado, remember Dear?

  17. Marilyn Sackariason

    Pat,

    This is a beautiful letter. I have a dear friend named Pat that sent me an email today telling me about this site. She will be putting her letters on next week. My friend has been a wonderful grandmother to her son’s grandchildren from the time they were born. Now, her son’s painful divorce and the former daughter-in-law are damaging that special relationship. It is so difficult to not be able to participate in your grandchildren’s life. I cherish my five grandchildren, even though they live out of state from me. I am grateful.

    You look very familiar. Have you ever been to a Crones Counsel? Are you the writer for the Crone magazine? http://www.cronescounsel.org.

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