Editor's Note: Recently, authors Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz contributed a child-instructive article to SeniorWomen.com entitled Stick Together. Elizabeth Bernier's story below, is in that same spirit.
Daddy, Why Do Grandma and Grandpa Live in Different Houses?
Deven was a little boy, four-and-a-half years old, and he lived in Denver, Colorado with his mom and dad and his dog, Edgar and his kitty, Peaky. Peaky was named after the mountains in Colorado and Edgar was named after the very best vacation place on earth, Edgartown on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Deven loved to visit his daddy’s sister Mary and her family who also lived in Denver. Deven called her Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary and Uncle Chris had two little boys, who were cousins of Deven. Their names were Nathan and Noah. Nathan’s name was really Nathaniel but everyone called him Nathan for short. Nathan was older than Deven, he was 6 years old and Noah was much younger than Deven, he was only 3 years old.
Nathan and Noah were Deven’s best buddies and they loved to play together whenever his family went to visit their family and whenever their family came to visit his family. They played cars and trucks and airplanes and soccer and baseball and sometimes went swimming in the park pool and sometimes went skating on the ice. Deven’s daddy taught them all how to skate backwards! The cousins had so much fun playing together, they even went to a Rockies Baseball game and had hot dogs and popcorn. And they watched the Colorado Avalanchers on TV. But the very best thing they loved to play was Power Rangers and Buzz Lightyear. Ta Dah!
Deven and his Mom and Dad loved to have family visit them from out-of-town. Sometimes his mom’s mother and father came to visit all the way from Massachusetts. Deven called them “Nana” and “Bumpa”. They lived in a town called West Bridgewater and they had a summer house on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, so that’s how Deven knew about the very best vacation place on earth.
Sometimes his Daddy’s father came to visit. Deven called him “Poppie” and sometimes Daddy’s mother came to visit. Deven called her “Grandma B.”
Deven went to family gatherings at Nathan and Noah’s house when they had lots of relatives visit them. Nathan and Noah had two grandmothers and two grandfathers, Grandma Deborah and Grandpa John and Grandma Sharon and Grandpa Jack. And lots more cousins, too. And they all lived in Denver, so Nathan and Noah got to see them a lot.
Deven never really thought much about where Poppie and Grandma B. lived, he just knew they lived in Massachusetts too, the same as Nana and Bumpa because he had visited there when his family “went back East”.
Then one day, Deven and his family decided to move back East to Massachusetts. They wanted to live closer to all the grandparents in Massachusetts so they could see them a lot like Nathan and Noah were able to do in Denver.
At first, they lived with Nana and Bumpa in their house in West Bridgewater until Nana and Bumpa moved to a brand new house called a condo. After they settled in, Deven and his mom and dad visited Grandma B. at her house on the water in Quincy, not too far from West Bridgewater. Then they went to visit Poppie at his house on Cape Cod, not too far from West Bridgewater.
On the way home from the visit, Deven said to his dad, “Grandma B. is your mom, right daddy?” “That’s right”, said his dad. “And Poppie is your dad, right daddy?”
“That’s right”, said his dad.
“Why don’t Poppie and Grandma B. live in the same house like Nana and Bumpa do?” asked Deven.
Well, that question took his dad by surprise and so his dad said, “That’s a long story so why don’t we talk about it after we get home. Maybe after we have our dinner and after we have fed Edgar and Peaky, you and I can sit down on the couch and I will tell you the story.”
"OK”, said Deven. “But don’t forget!”
Later that evening Deven and his dad sat down on the couch and his dad told him the story about why Grandma B. and Poppie live in different houses.
"Do you remember when we lived in Denver and we visited at Nathan and Noah’s house? Sometimes we saw their Grandma Deborah and Grandpa John and sometimes we saw their Grandma Sharon and Grandpa Jack?”
"Yes, I remember”, said Deven.
"Well, Nathan and Noah have two sets of grandparents that are on Uncle Chris’s side of the family because Uncle Chris’s mom and dad were divorced many years ago and they each married a second time so that gives Nathan and Noah two sets of grandparents. His mom Sharon married Jack and his dad John married Deborah."
"The same thing happened to my mother and dad. Many years ago they were divorced and my Dad married Margaret ... do you remember Margaret?”
“It was sad when she died last year before we moved back to Massachusetts. Well, my mom, Grandma B. didn’t marry again so you don’t have as many grandparents as Nathan and Noah do.”
Deven was quiet for a moment.
"What’s divorced, daddy?” he asked.
"Divorced is when a man and a woman decide they don’t want to be married to each other anymore. You know when you and Nathan and Noah play Power Rangers or Buzz Lightyear, you fight the bad guys but sometimes you end up arguing and saying something mean to each other and somebody cries. Well, most of time moms and dads are really nice to each other, they hug a lot and kiss sometimes and talk and laugh together. They argue sometimes but not very often. They always make up and say they’re sorry.”
"Like when Mommy took all the keys, daddy?” said Deven.
"That’s right,” daddy laughed. “I forgot you heard us arguing about the keys that day. Well, divorce happens for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes a mom and dad argue all the time and they don’t talk and laugh together anymore. Then they decide to not live together because they can’t stop the arguing and hurting each other so they separate and one moves to a different house and they ‘get a divorce.’ They still continue to be parents and they still love and take care of their children, but they live in different houses. After they get divorced, they might get married to another person and they might not.”
Deven got a very worried look on his face. “Are you and Mommy getting a divorce, Daddy?” he said.
"No, Deven. Mommy and Daddy are like Nana and Bumpa. We love each other very much and we love to be together all three of us so we are not going to get a divorce. We are going to stay together, you and Mommy and me. Maybe someday our family would get bigger. Then you would have a little sister or brother! Wouldn’t that be cool? I really liked having brothers and sisters when I was a little boy. You could teach her or him how to play Power Rangers and Buzz Lightyear! When she, or he, got big enough, of course.”
Deven smiled and said, “That would be so cool to get a brother like Noah to play with or maybe even a sister.”
“Deven, if you start to worry or have a question about this again, be sure to ask mommy or me to talk with you about it, OK?”
Then daddy said, “I once saw a sign on Grandma B.’s computer and you know what it says?”
Deven wondered, “What does it say?”
"It says: ‘Why worry? It will probably never happen!’”
Elizabeth, a retired psychotherapist, has downsized to an apartment in Bristol, RI. She raised six children in Scituate, MA as a single mother and now has seven grandchildren.
Elizabeth did some writing in graduate school when the children were young and returned to writing as a result of her RV trip to volunteer for Katrina disaster relief. At the age of seventy, she plans to continue her travels seeing the beauty of the US and Canada. You may email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org