Well, with a little coaxing ;-) my son's visit actually went well. Apologies were made and accepted. Most importantly for me, I wasn't a nervous wreck the entire visit.
It's crazy how people who love each other can get caught up in a ridiculous cycle of resentment and animosity. When at the core of it all is a need for reassurance from each other that we are loved and respected. When there is a big separation of distance and time, it's even harder to resolve things. The relationship gets stuck and there's not much opportunity to resolve it in a timely manner. I guess that's how family members can be estranged over many years. In the end, they've lost the most precious and irreplaceable thing, time together.
I lost the opportunity to spend time with my own mother during the last years of her life. While we both stubbornly refused to be the first to pick up the phone, we never realized that we were running out of time. In the end I had to make my peace with her while she was in a coma from which she would never recover.
While my mother and I were never going to get along. There were still things that I wished we would have shared. I would have liked for my kids to get to know her, and establish their own relationship with her. There was a lot special about her that they missed out on. I know that she would have made a much more loving grandmother than she did a mother.
Acceptance is the hardest thing for us to wrap our hearts around. We greedily hold on to our ideas of what people should be like, and feel cheated when they don't live up to our expectations. It may be the hardest between parents and adult children.
A very smart man who after listening to me bemoan my father's unwillingness to stand up for me or show me affection once asked me, "After all these years, do you think he'll change?"
"No!" I replied emphatically.
"Then why won't you accept him as he is?"
Such a simple, crystal clear notion. My father while lacking in the ability to show love, or defend me against my Mother's constant judgment, was a kind and gentle man. It was good to get to know him as a person and not just my father. I never could have done that had I kept banging both our heads against my rock hard insistence that he be what I imagined a loving father should be.
And as a Mother, I had come to the realization many years ago, that as my children grow into adults, they are going to follow their own paths, and have their own ideas and beliefs. As a parent, I don't have to like every aspect of their personality, but if I accept even those things that I'm not too keen about, I can enjoy a much happier relationship with them.
Now if I can only get them to accept me as I am! Luckily, for the most part, they do.
Of course, for some people who find no redeeming traits in their family member at all, then estrangement may be the only sensible answer. But to be at peace with that, it still takes acceptance of who the person and the situation in general.
I glad that least for now there is peace. And when the next blow up occurs... It will be another bridge to cross or burn, no need to worry about that for the moment.