Sorry Grandma, I’m done!

My grandparents live all over the US, and we just can’t afford it anymore. Help!

Our elder has some tried-and-tested solutions for staying in touch with grandparents who live out of state.

Dear EWC

I’ve been thinking about this awhile. I think I need to be done visiting my grandmother’s. I love them and it hurts so much to say this, but my husband and I are struggling financially and half of our money goes to student loans. By the end of the month, it’s a toss-up if we’ll have overdrafted our account or not. We are expecting our first baby soon. We both work a lot but we can never get ahead because of student loans and other basic living expenses. We’ll need to start thinking about childcare costs soon too. My husband’s parents live in Georgia. My parents live in Los Angeles, my maternal grandmother who is 95 lives in an assisted living home in Texas, and my 93-year-old paternal grandmother, whom I’m very close to, lives in an assisted living home in Florida. My husband and live in Oregon. Nobody lives near each other and we can’t afford these expensive trips to visit my grandmothers which require airfare, ground transportation, time off work, hotels, and restaurants. We need to prioritize visiting our parents.

All of our vacation time is dedicated to visiting family and the financial burden is too much. Unfortunately, my grandmothers are no longer able to travel to come see us. One of them is barely able to speak on the phone and I can’t relate to her old Southern values, racism, and insecurities. I never considered the cost and burden of visiting very old grandparents until recently. At this point, we are starting our own family. I hate to stop the visits… it feels wrong but it’s so stressful. Of course, I’m glad they’re living into their 90s and I don’t want them to feel abandoned. We just can’t do the expensive, burdensome visits. I know they’ll want to meet the newborn and that will be pretty near impossible for us. Do you have some advice for us?

Sageworthy replies

Your letter caught my attention as my family also lives in many different states across the USA. It certainly is understandable that you might feel both frustrated and saddened, not being able to visit family members on a regular basis. I have come to learn that this phenomenon is not uncommon in today’s world.
I can share with you what our family did to deal with this frustrating situation. The ‘solution’ was simple and quite effective; albeit, imperfect.

Several years ago we called a family meeting; this is what we came up with:
Each one of my children selected a day of the week where they would write a brief card or note to their grandparents/great grandparents. They would include photos, news of the week, even jokes and clever sayings they thought a certain grandpa would enjoy. We also contacted the assisted living facilities to request, and make sure that the cards/notes were shown and read to the recipients.

Some of these dear relatives have since passed away. We received amazing feedback from staff members, saying how the elders were so heartened by receiving mail from loved ones each week. Snail mail seems to have gone by the wayside in this day and age. I do know for sure, that all the seniors I know, love getting ‘real mail’.

Just the other day, one of my kids mentioned how much she enjoyed choosing a special card, looking up lovely quotes about topics of interest to the recipient, sending photos, and even decorating the envelopes. She also said she felt so good about the months she was sending her great-grandpa cards… it warms her heart, to this day, knowing he received some joy on a weekly basis (her grandpa died three years ago). I should mention that she copied the notes and sent the same one to each grandparent/great grandparent… no harm in that. Each person also received a short, more personal note.
Obviously, the time and expense of choosing cards, quotes, and photos is way less than the time and expense of visiting. We believe the positive effects on everyone, were almost as valuable as an in-person visit. Kind words and photos can linger in the mind forever, just the same as the memory of a visit.

I can see from your letter that you care deeply about your family. I know what I have offered to you is not perfect, as part of you would like to see people in person. I can only share that this arrangement worked beautifully for my family. Unfortunately, my father-in-law never met his great-grandson in person, but he did meet him on Skype and received photos and updates on the baby’s progress. Those around him told us that he often fell asleep clinging to the photos we had sent. When my own dad passed away, while going through his bedside table, we found a pile of obviously well worn, letters and photos he had saved. We knew he had cherished them.

Your question is very important. I feel honored to have been able to give you an option, and sincerely hope I have been able to shed some light on your predicament.
Wishing you a healthy, peaceful, and joyful pregnancy and delivery.

Letter #: 434449
Category: Family

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