A Tale of Two Opas

Growing up, I didn't have two grandmothers and two grandfathers:  I had Grandma (aka "Fwamma" once my brother came along) and Papa; and Oma and Opa (German for grandmother and grandfather).  Oma and Opa are my mother's parents, and I had always gone around assuming that, when the time came, she and my father would become Oma and Opa to my own children.

But my father died.

For the first two months of my son's life, he did a lot of what I called "staring at ghosts".  It's something all newborns do- a steady (or wandering) gaze into the middle distance, at apparently nothing.  Cats do a similar thing, following "nothing" intently about the room (and occasionally freaking out and running away from it), and as I'd always claimed they were watching ghosts, it only made sense that my son must be doing the same.  Any time he seemed particularly fixated on a "ghost", I told myself it was my father, come to entertain his grandson while I did yet another load of laundry.  Thus did I start talking to Neeps about "Ghost Opa".  He doesn't seem to come around as much now- probably figures I have a better grip on this whole "parenting" thing after almost three full months of it.  Or maybe Neeps's ability to see ghosts fades as his ability to see his physical surroundings intensifies.


My mom and my stepdad made a whirlwind visit last week, and as they were on their way I texted her: "Does Stepdad prefer 'Papa Stepdad' or 'Opa Stepdad?'  Because we've been calling him 'Papa Stepdad' but there's still time to change that!"

"He's Opa for [your brother's kids].  I made a command decision at Christmas."

I'll admit- for a split-second, I felt... a little disappointed.  A little sad.  A little... betrayed.  Not by my mom (or stepdad) but just... by life?  I guess?  But I swallowed it all down and replied, "Okay!"  After all, I rationalized, my dad is "Ghost Opa"- no reason stepdad can't be "Opa Stepdad".

But then they got here, and I realized- fuck my selfish emo-girl feelings.  Stepdad is the one and only Opa Neeps will ever get to meet, and he is a good and loving man who doesn't deserve to be made out as some sort of consolation prize just because deep down I'm still a selfish brat.  That's why, when I handed Neeps over, I didn't say, "It's Opa Stepdad!" I said, "It's Opa!" full stop.  Because it's not about the dreams I had as a child.  It's about my child's reality.

I want my son to know his blood-grandfather; I want him to have that connection.  But not at the cost of any of the living connections he has.  And all I can do is hope that I can be a big enough person to find the balance between the two.

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