The FaceTime Grandma
By: Peggy Willms
(5 min read)
The FaceTime Grandma — that’s me. When I became a mother in the 80s, social media, nonetheless visual conversation, didn’t exist. My sons were raised when wall-hanging telephones transitioned to mobile phones. Not the ones we know today, but the ones where you needed to be within 25 feet of the home base. FaceTime didn’t exist.
Our lives revolved around our sons: school work, events, sports, and friends. We did anything it took, including each of us having two to three jobs a piece, to give them what they needed and wanted. I raced to Hobby Lobby late at night to get craft items so they could complete a project due the following day. Baking and cutting up fruit for the weekend baseball or soccer game was the norm. We colored, painted, wrote stories, read stories, swam, and traveled across the Midwest as they chased state and national motocross championships—all of the same things many parents do. So how am I different than you?
The difference is likely this…I knew there would be a time I would move away from them. I am not talking about moving out of their childhood home and down the road. I am talking about leaving town, the state, and maybe someday, even the country.
I knew my sons would go on to have their own families and likely never leave their hometown. We had multiple conversations about the choice I would make. There were sacrifices ahead. I would spend more time away from them than with them, and this would include my grandchildren. And at this point, you are slamming the table with disgust or rolling your eyes with disbelief that I would consider such a thing. There will only be a handful of you that might understand.
Rarely have I taken any steps in my life that aren’t calculated to some extent. Analyzing the risks, being prepared three steps in advance, and outlining how I might pivot if necessary are all things I do best. The outcome…this girl is like a mermaid; she needed to find her way to the sea.
My grandmother, Mammie, and I had the tightest bond. We were together daily until I was six years old as my teenage mother, brother, and I lived with my grandparents. Mammie didn’t work then; she was extremely loving, doting and filled my love cup so much it flowed over. We played games, and the organ, listened to music and comedy albums, cooked, and talked and talked and talked. I sat on her lap well into adulthood, playing with her soft earlobes and drinking her hot coffee or tea.
The role of an involved and loving grandmother was one I knew well. And early on, I knew I would NOT be “that type” of grandmother. Not because I didn’t want to or wasn’t able, but because I couldn’t. Unless my family moved to the ocean’s edge with me, there would be no option for my sons and grandchildren to grow up with a grandmother like mine. Some find this so sad, and at times I do as well, but I had to go. The only way I can describe it is that the waves called me and pulled me with such force that I could no longer ignore them.
When you love open water, being “trapped” in a land-locked state and a valley surrounded by mountains feels like a punishment. So trying desperately to fall in love with the geography of Western Colorado, I mountain biked, floated down the river, and hiked. But it never filled me up.
When my sons became adults, their work took them on the road for a decade, and their home base was their hometown. They weren’t going anywhere though my youngest son, Tanner, was intrigued by underwater welding and initially was moving with me to Florida to complete his education and work out at sea, which never came to fruition. Years later, when he was 21, he was in a devastating motorcycle accident, and he had to learn to walk again. It was during this accident when we were taking care of him, that I decided that once he healed, I was not waiting any longer to fulfill my dream. Life was too short. His story is being published in my upcoming book, Win the Wellness W.A.R., which launches on Flag Day, June 14, 2023.
The bottom line is that I knew they would live in Colorado, as would my parents and sister and her family, and I would not. And when the time came, it was a blender full of mixed emotions. The turmoil of the push and pull gave way to a yin-yang flow, almost like the waves themselves. The move was seamless, and things fell into place. I remained positive and saw the benefits, not the detriments.
Sure, I could sit in my rocking, crocheting Afghans or bake whoopie pies and wait to see if they would call or come over, but that wasn’t me, and they would never have the best version of me. What if I chose to remain there, and they decided to move to Tennessee with the love of their life; I would sit alone, miserable, stuck in the desert. What if I waited until I retired to move, got sick or injured, and couldn’t? The sea called louder and louder, and at age 50, I made the move. After being in a relationship with the most considerate and compassionate man on the planet who, by the way, grew up in Canada, had heat aversion, and did not love the sea, we moved to Florida, left Corporate America, and began working from home.
My sons and I are very close, and it never crossed my mind that that would ever change, and it hasn’t. We visit each other, talk and text frequently, and, of course, there is FaceTime.
The ability we have to speak and see each other at the same time is a blessing. I agree it doesn’t replace the hugs and kisses being in person does, but we have the best of both worlds. I needed to take responsibility for being my healthiest self and not become a burden to them with another bout of depression.
And now I have assumed another role. I am a grandmother of two boys, and yes, we FaceTime. One is two, and the other is one week old. And yes, I watch him drink his bottle and kiss my phone screen as if I am there. Can I smell him, no? Do I wish I could? Absolutely!
I have become the grandmother in a box, the square face encouraging the toddler to terrorize the house so his daddy gets payback. Though I am 2400 miles away, the cuddle bug knows me. We make faces, and he shows me how he is learning his ABCs. I am the grandmother that sends packages and shows up for hugs a few times a year. Most of my photos with my grandsons are still shots I take when Face Timing them. I will become the grandmother where they flock to visit Disney World and swim in the waves.
Please don’t be sad or mad at the decision I have made. We are all fine, and our lives have melded perfectly. Quality over quantity is a mantra I have lived by my whole life. I would rather have a quality job and make less money, have quality friends than dozens, and eat quality desserts than Little Debbie’s. And I would rather have a quality relationship with my grandsons than sit there waiting for them to call because they reluctantly need to “fit me in.” And I especially do not want to argue over where anyone will go for Thanksgiving. QUALITY.
I am a FaceTime grandmother. And this Mimi hopes they will someday understand why I don’t live down the street.
My baby boy
1st grandson, Crew
New baby boy, Dutton