Open Doors

By Cathy MacKenzie

They say when one door closes, another one opens. In my case, two doors opened simultaneously. Previously, I had thought I would be locked in turmoil forever because of a door that would not budge. Then that door flew wide open, along with another unexpected door. I thought it impossible to enter only one.

My locked door was a lack of grandchildren. I had despaired of ever being called “Granny.” In an instant, it seemed, life changed dramatically for me. Today I have three biological grandchildren and one step-grandchild.

My fulfilled wish made me the happiest woman in the world. But that fulfillment brought on a new set of problems – nothing as serious as death or illness or bankruptcy – but a dilemma nonetheless…

The winter of 2006/2007, before my two granddaughters were born, my husband and I spent three months in a little village in Mexico, the longest vacation we had ever taken. Both of us fell so in love with the area that he suggested we purchase a house and spend winters there.

I was in turmoil. Finally, grandchildren were in the future. Being away from them, even for the winter months, was not what I had envisioned. I expected to always live near my children, and I wanted to be near my future grandchildren, too. I wanted to be there for their parents in times of emergency, to be available to pick them up at daycare or school, to watch over them when they were sick. I enjoyed it when my children dropped in for unannounced visits, and I anticipated more of the same with grandchildren.

That prospective new door in Mexico could open rare opportunities and experiences, not to mention warm winters, which was something that previously I could never fathom. My husband is not my children’s father, so my family isn’t as important to him, and I knew I wouldn’t be fair denying him time down south. I felt like I was sinking in a quagmire. I didn’t know how I could endure being away from those little beings for four to six months every year. I was torn – extremely torn.

We bought a house that first year. It was a beautiful Mexican home smack in the middle of that little Mexican village.

When we returned to Canada, my mother was aghast. My children laid on the guilt trip. Only my husband was ecstatic. I suffered silently, sinking lower and lower.

December rolled around too soon that year, and then it was time for our first full winter in our new home in Mexico. My two gorgeous granddaughters, born three weeks apart, were just four months old. I was in tears, knowing how much of their early lives I would miss during a four-month absence.

It’s now been five years since we’ve become snowbirds. Thus far, we’ve spent four months away each year, but it will eventually increase to six months. Our Mexican village is so enchanting and the weather so perfect, I find it hard to be miserable. I become involved in so many activities, that sometimes I forget my grandchildren for a few days. I can see and talk to them on Skype, but it isn’t the same as cradling and cooing to an eight-month-old baby boy, having two three-and-a-half-year-old girls tug on my arm to play or a ten-year-old asking me to help her write a story.

We have many friends who live in Mexico permanently. I am so envious of them, yet I am confused. How do they manage to give up their daily lives with their families? How do they survive without day-to-day touches with their grandchildren?

While in Mexico, I very rarely think of our home in Canada. When I do, I almost become claustrophobic as I remember rooms filled to the brim with furniture and clutter. It is a large, modern three-bedroom bungalow with a finished basement, approximately forty-four hundred square feet. I love that house and wouldn’t trade it for another. When I’m home in Canada, busy with my other life, I very rarely think of our Mexican home.

In Mexico, life is so much simpler. Our two-story home there is large as well, almost four thousand square feet, with two bedrooms, plus a one-bedroom casita behind the main house. Our sparse furniture is Mexican-style, rustic and laid back. We are freer, with less stress, less baggage, less commitment.

Walking down the cobblestoned streets gives me a feeling of being in the middle of a Norman Rockwell painting. The sun always shines. Street noises abound – blaring loudspeakers, foreign voices, roosters’ cock-a-doodle-doos. Women sweep the dusty sidewalks in front of their homes, and men are busy working in their shops. Before and after school, children play outdoors, very rarely fighting or crying. Well-behaved teenagers congregate on the street corners. Older Mexicans sit on squatty stumps of wood as they watch life pass by; others saunter down the streets, all freely sharing their smiles and buenos dias.

When it comes time to lock the door on our Mexican home, I become depressed, although I know another very different home waits to be unlocked. I want so badly to see my grandchildren, yet I don’t want to leave my idyllic life in Mexico. This is my home, as well; this is where I am happy when I’m here, even though I miss my family terribly.

Sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t prayed so often and fervently for grandchildren, would they be here today? If I had no grandchildren, would I have permanently locked that door in Canada and forever spread wide that Mexican door? I will never know.

For now, I will continue to fly from country to country, one home to the other. When my grandchildren are older – when they are teenagers and too wrapped up in their own worlds to care about an aged grandmother – perhaps then I will chose.

Both doors may be locked at any given time, but both are so easily opened.

About this writer

  • Cathy MacKenzie Cathy MacKenzie enjoys writing poetry, short stories and essays and hopes to complete a novel. She also paints with pastels, her favorite subjects being her grandchildren. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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2 Responses to “Open Doors”

  1. sharkbytes says:

    Wonderful description of a dilemma many people face. It’s probably healthy to maintain a life of your own for a few months of the year.

  2. AnnaB says:

    I loved your article it makes me want to move to Mexico. :o)

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