07 Jul Real Help for Real Living: I survived my daughter’s one year wedding anniversary
A year ago, my daughter got married. In the Italian culture, you can mess up a lot of things except your wedding. Mess that up and it’s all over. You might as well exile yourself to Antarctica. When my last surviving aunt gave the wedding a thumb’s up, we knew it was good.
The wedding is one thing; marriage is another. My son-in-law tells me, “I dated your daughter for three years and thought I knew her. Wow, I still have a lot to learn.” They’re old fashioned like me and my wife – they didn’t live together until they said “I do.”
For over thirty years of my life, I have navigated my daughter’s visual disability. There were the medical bills, transportation to doctors and social connections where she had to be driven because she couldn’t see to drive herself. I had to learn to balance taking care of her without crossing the line of enabling her. I didn’t want her to have a dependent relationship on me. Years ago, when I told her I was no longer doing her taxes, she thought I abandoned her. That was difficult for her to process. I was trying to help her mature but she didn’t see it that way. By mature I don’t mean stoic. I meant becoming the woman God created her to be.
When I was newly married, I felt like I was on the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond.” My father would open the door, shout “Yoo Hoo” and ring the doorbell at the same time. He thought that was fine. I didn’t. Therefore, I felt I needed to give my daughter space.
I couldn’t get involved in their finances. When my son-in-law needed loans for college, I connected him to my contacts, then I was done. It wasn’t my job to hover over him on whether he followed up with them.
A few years ago, I sold our family Dodge mini-van to my son-in-law when he was dating my daughter. It had over 300k miles on it. Two years later, the power steering system needed replacing. It wasn’t worth the expense. What would they do?
I backed off. It was their problem to resolve. When they found a car, how would they pay for it? It wasn’t my responsibility to address.
This summer we decided not to go to the beach for vacation. My wife reminded me how much our daughter liked going to the beach. I reminded her she was married and it wasn’t my job to organize her summer vacation plans. My wife wasn’t happy with me.
During this past year, I kept thinking of a phrase my daughter-in-law’s grandmother said to her when she was marrying my son. It has two simple, yet very profound points.
- You can’t come home.
- Figure it out.
I laughed when I heard it. No, we didn’t change the locks on our house. My daughter spent three weeks at our house recovering from eye surgery. Due to the nature of the surgery, she could not give herself the medication. But they would have to figure out their own finances. If they didn’t have the rent money, they couldn’t come home. They would have to figure it out.
I learned to say the word, “Oh” a lot. I’m a fixer and I want to jump in and fix things. If I did, they as a couple would never mature and reach their potential. I just listen and say, “Oh.”
It’s been a good learning process for all of us, especially me.