Family gatherings are always bittersweet. One of my husband’s brothers and family have been back in NZ as their expat stints overseas have ended, though they are only here for a month (as covered by his end of contract provisions) because they are going to reside in the land of my sister-in-law, which is of course more tax-advantageous than staying here to help out with the elderly in-laws. Another brother and family decided to visit for several days to coincide, so three of the four brothers and their families are in the country at the same time, which happens only every 3 years or so. So it is chaotic and complicated and great fun.
One of the complications of course is being the couple who does all the care of the now very frail and vulnerable elderly in-laws and doesn’t have the luxury of choosing where to live based on tax advantages, and of course, there’s the complication of being the couple without children, the ones who didn’t provide the grandchildren. While they’ve been here we’ve celebrated the 18th birthday of the nephew who was born around the time we were trying, and the 16-year-old niece who was three months old at the Christmas when I was still having treatment for my first ectopic pregnancy, and the 13-year-old who was gestating when his mother said blithely to me, “if I miscarry, I don’t care because I can always get pregnant again.”
There are memories everywhere, but the kids aren’t aware of these things, and so it has been nice seeing them again, and chatting with them about books and history and their interests, though we’ve sadly had very little time with them, as time with their grandparents has had to be their priority. I was sad to know that I can’t see my Australian niece play netball, especially when she plays the very same positions that I did, and it was lovely to hear my own piano being played by my nephew, though of course there was pain that I will never hear it played by my own child. After so many years, it’s been a little surprising for some of the memories and emotions to come flooding back, and a little surprising to feel those painful twinges over the things I don’t get to do with my children (and see their parents dismiss the activities so casually), but at least now I know without doubt that I will recover quickly and regain my usual equilibrium in no time at all.