This weekend we had a meal with the boys' biological grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins. The grandparents aren't doing well, health-wise, and so after five years of silence on both ends, my former sister-in-law called and asked if we could bring the boys over.
So we did.
On the drive there, I tried to remind myself that there is no "our side" and "their side" only the boys' side, and we are all on their side.
It's easy to tell myself that nothing ever changes in that family, but of course that's not true. The teenaged girl I last saw is now a single mother of a little girl with the same dark eyes she had when I met her. The boys' grandfather is wandering away inside his mind. Once he stood up to walk outside to the cooler of drinks, and couldn't figure out the door. When his son introduced the boys to him, he shook his head and muttered that he didn't know them. But then he looked at Tre and asked his name. When Tre answered, he clapped a hand on his shoulder and said softly, "I know who you are."
Tre is the eldest son of his eldest son, and that holds a price I will never understand.
Everyone was kind and oh so careful. Food was shared and promises were passed around, and when it seemed reasonable to do so, we gathered up and said goodbye. It was fine. It was all just fine.
On the way home, I read the last part of the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. "Your father is alive in you, Harry," I read. I paused in the middle of the words, swallowed and swallowed and tried not to cry. There is no competition. There is no winning or losing. There are no sides, I promised myself. But my throat locked up for a long, hard minute before I could read on.
We arrived home, and despite the thousand errands I still needed to finish, I went upstairs and lay down, so bone-weary that the trip up the stairs felt like a lifetime. I fell into bed, and slept like I'd run a marathon.
Some roads are just so very long.