My mother is in town, staying in a flat in St Kilda which Melbournites will know is just around the corner from the Darebin area where we live. She'll be here 5 days. It's hard, juggling our needs which involve focusing on staying sane and looking after the kids with a grandma's need to see her reward for parenthood, as it's sometimes called.
Today went well. She didn't criticise beloved, in her implicit but undermining way that finds expression through questions such as "Oh, so you don't feed her X then?"
It's a good start.
I want things to be smooth, not the least for a grandma who lives as she has for most of her adult life, since meeting my father: remote from her family and long-term friends, following the follies of a complicated and, although sometimes well-meaning, ultimately very selfish man.
This move, which I've summarised elsewhere and which paid zero regard to their ability to be involved with their grandchildren's lives, was probably the fourth in their marriage that involved picking up and leaving a place where my mother was becoming happy and setting down roots.
I'm sure there are worse places in the world than medium-sized Queensland towns, but she knows next to no-one, is nearly 5 hours drive from the nearest good friend, and proper airport (kinda necessary for visiting family in Melbourne) and will now have to rebuild again.
She would have liked to have moved a lot closer to us, she did say so when he once asked, before ruling it out, and for all her faults mentioned earlier this would have been fine, same street aside.
At 70 this move has a finality about it. She knows she will be 8 hours each way away from her grandkids, the only ones she'll have, for the rest of her life. If she allows her imagination to wander, and being a big fan of Mills&Boon I know she resorts to imagination for some respite, then on occasion she will see an alternate reality, where, being no more than 2 or 3 hours away, she sees Bear and Mr Man on a regular basis, feels part of their lives, and enjoys the continuum of family that will be completely missing in the self-imposed isolation they've now signed on to.
I think it would make her sad, it certainly disappoints me a little. So I will do my best to make the quality time they have the best it can be. If she comes to the party- resisting the temptation to regress into her critical worst- then we might just manage some sort of decent relationship.
She brought books, Thomas books (yes, a hint, Bear can't get enough!), and Bear brought them to her, saying "Dan-Ma, read it Dan-ma", and they sat on the couch together and I left them with a smile.
A tribute to Fred Gruen - A few weeks ago, I gave the FH Gruen lecture, on the topic After reform: the economic policy agenda in the 21st century. Thanks to sound editor Simon Kravi...
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