I used the stiff-bristled broom to sweep the leaves from my patio. It was awkward, and a rake would have been more efficient. Still angry, the extra exertion felt cathartic and soothing. As I recognized the inadequacy of trying to sweep the cement floor clean of bits of dry brown leaves and twigs, Samantha appeared at the double glass doors, a leaf blower strapped to her chest.
“Do you have an electric outlet out here?” she asked.
I frowned. “What are you doing here? You said leaf blowing is stupid,” I groused.
“I still think it is stupid to go through all this just for a Zoom tour with your siblings, but we were afraid that using the blower would hurt your hands. Move those chairs so I can get the leaves piled up against the wall.”
The electric hum of the blower came to life and swirls of brown and rust-colored fauna, along with my ire, flew in the direction of the front yard, leaving the patio clean and me mollified.
I had intended to draft a very different blog when I first came downstairs from my daughter’s kitchen, angry that she and her family seemed so indifferent to my request, responding as if I were a nuisance. I live in a newly renovated basement apartment in my daughter’s new home in Georgia. Most Sundays I visit with my siblings and their children on Zoom—an accommodation to our Covid-19 confinement and our age. My brothers and sisters are seventy or older. My eldest brother was curious to see the new apartment, designed and built to be ADA compliant should I need it—my son-in-law says when I need it. I agreed to join the Zoom chat and take them on a video tour. I wanted to show off my new place and, admittedly, I got a little overzealous in assuring that everything was perfect.
My intended blog would have been more like the one when I ran away from home several years ago. Then we lived in a similar multi-gen household in Ona, West Virginia, mostly tension-free until we had a huge fight about my granddaughter’s newfound concern about body image—her body image—the cause for which my daughter laid at my feet. Rather than allow the fight to escalate into words not easily amended, I called a friend and arranged to meet her halfway between Huntington and Washington, D.C., in the odd city of Morgantown, WV. I snuck out, leaving a note saying I had run away but would be back Sunday afternoon so that I could take care of my granddaughter after school on Monday. That was my responsibility.
While I spent my first few minutes sweeping leaves, I was rehearsing an angry blog in my mind, feeling the heat of that earlier fight when I felt trapped in a living arrangement from which I saw no escape. I had felt unloved and unwanted. Then Samantha came down with the blower. I took my siblings on a tour, binged on some television series, and went for long walks. However, the morning’s incident kept running like a broken record in my mind. Here I am, trying to make sense of this lesson—for lesson it must be.
Barbara Ballinger wrote in the REALTOR Magazine that multi-gen living, once popular in the 1900s, is now staging a comeback—less among white Americans than other ethnic groups, but still on the rise. She says, “Despite the potential obstacles, peace can prevail with the expectation that resolvable skirmishes will arise periodically.” I think that’s the lesson. We live together to support one another and, despite the occasional tiffs, with that goal in place we manage to keep the peace. Just like this society, we are stronger together.