I have always gotten along with Dave's family. There has never been a time when there was a lot of conflict or great frustration between me and Dave's parents, or any other family member of his. I was always welcomed in and they certainly never meddled, almost to a fault. But there has been a little change in our relationship (it is probably just on my side, so I'm not speaking for them), since Dave died.
You see, I went to Pagosa right before school started, with Leah, Spencer and Macie to simply spend time with Dave's parents, Janet and Paul, and hopefully catch a meal with his sister and brother in law, Linda and James. I knew we would have a good time, but I'm not sure I expected to feel like those days were truly treasured days . . . treasured moments.
When I used to go home with Dave, there was always the Dave element. Dave loved loved his parents and he had a good relationship with them, but he would sort of power down when he would cross the threshold of their door. It was weird. I would always give him a little pep talk, before we would enter. "Stay with me, Dave." "You've got this." There was a Dave dynamic that could be tricky. So, being the highly trained psychologist that I am, I would be trying to figure out all the dynamics and such. In addition to that, there were financial decisions that his parents would make that seemed like they would affect us. In hindsight, I think Dave and I made way too much about the decisions that they had every right to make the way they wanted to make them.
Now that those barriers are removed I can see so much more clearly, the pure love and tenderness and care that Dave's parents have, not only for my kids, but even for me. And I feel so touched. I, also, can say that I had soooooo much fun with Janet. I'm sure others see what I see, but for some reason, I feel like I get to see this little feisty side that others don't, in this mild mannered grandma. Not to mention all of the her stories and off handed remarks that made me laugh all weekend long. And I could go on and on and on about how much Janet and Paul love Leah and Macie and Spencer. Why did I ever bother to mess with the stuff in between them and love? I have no idea.
Sidebar: You know what I think is so crazy? Is that Dave's mom, lost her mom when she was six years old, on Christmas Eve. Spencer was six, when Dave died three days before Christmas. What are the chances? I have always felt like that has given Dave's mom, Janet, that extra little inner compassion for my three. She actually does know what it feels like to lose a parent to death when you are six, right before Christmas. Sadly, death was handled differently back then. She wasn't allowed to talk about her mom, or have a picture or have any of her stuff. I can not imagine. But what she went through, has given her something unexplainable in her relationship to her grandkids.
It's funny how the things that bother me so much about a person can be the thing that creates a special memory. Like how I was "kinda" mad when I went out of town and Dave watched Star Wars with Spencer, without discussing with me if it was age appropriate. And now, I know that Star Wars is a good connection that Spencer has with Dave dad and Tony dad. But back to the here and now, example. Paul ("Papa") likes his TV. It used to bother me so much that he would sit and watch TV, while his grandkids played in another room. That just doesn't even phase me, anymore. (In fact, I think the reason it bothered me, is because fear would tell me that Dave would start doing that). Anyway, now, it was sweet how Spencer watched the news with Papa for an hour and came away talking about Trump and Clinton and how the news was actually interesting. And I have sweet pictures of Leah cuddled on Papa's lap, while he rested in his TV lazy boy.
This whole new dynamic doesn't stop with Dave parents, either. His sisters and their families are nieces and nephews are so gracious. We had dinner with his sister who still lives in Pagosa. The evening we spent over there was another little treasure in my memory. They saddled up their horses and let the kids ride, we roasted marshmallows over their fire pit, and we carried on with life, with Dave, but without Dave.
His other sister, Laura, doesn't live in Pagosa anymore, so I didn't see them on this trip, but I adore how they have made great efforts to remain connected to this family and have taken in Tony and Braden and Evan, as their family now, too. All that they have done and more importantly, who they are, requires much more than this one little post. I wish I had written about all the ski trips where Dave's brother in law, Mike, had more patience than humanly possible when it came to teaching my kids how ski. How do I not have posts on that???
Anyway, the gist of it is, I'm so fortunate to have relatives that I don't even know what to call them. Are they "in-laws"? "late in-laws"? It sure doesn't matter to me. I just love how they love and I have learned so much from them.
I love this snapshot into life with the Aldridge clan. What an interesting and complex journey this is. On one hand, Dave was the one who brought you all together in the first place. On the other, it's his absence that has made the heart grow even fonder. Funny (not funny) how tragedy really can strip your paradigm of all the "excess chaff", the things that don't REALLY matter in the whole scheme of life, and help you see the sweet moments and deep connections that might have otherwise gotten lost in the shuffle of real time hopes & fears. Oh that we would all live with this perspective in all times -- not just in the wake of tragedy. Love you, girl.
"with Dave, but without Dave..."
I'm still so shocked that Dave is not here. Just can't believe it. But that you would head to his home town and work to connect with his family is such an important way to remember him and help your kids know who he was. Particularly with Spencer, I see so much of Dave walking around in this world. I'm quite certain that Dave's parents see Dave in him, too. So thankful for people in our lives that decide on love even in the hard and the hurt and the grief. Sounds like Dave's family are that kind of people. So grateful for this story and for your trip to Pagosa!