It began in October, at Art's daughter Laura's wedding in Akumal, Mexico. All but one of his six kids were there. And his ex-wife Nancy and her husband Clete were there. And Art and me. We spent six days there - some of it as a group, some in smaller groups, some in couples or singles. Everyone got along. Effortlessly. It seems that, 20 years after their divorce, the bride's parents were amicable and glad to be there. Laura had both her parents, and both her stepparents, sitting in the front row at the ceremony. And, before the vows, she gave each of us - all four of us - a long-stemmed red rose and a hug.
It continued last Saturday, when Nancy and Clete and Art and I cohosted a family gathering at a local venue. Laura and her husband Brian flew out from New Jersey, and Laura's sister Melissa and her husband Scott flew up from San Diego, and Laura's three local brothers drove over. And 46 people - Laura's aunts and uncles and cousins from both sides of her family - celebrated the season, with a toast from Laura's brother Jason welcoming his new brother-in-law.
And in conversations with some of these grown offspring over the weekend, topics included what Art and I would like as we grow older and what our expectations are - or are not - from our kids; suggestions from people further along in their careers as to financial strategies for the younger ones that might lead to a values-driven life and/or a comfortable retirement; who might be able to help someone get a job in a company they work in; possible destinations for future all-family gatherings (Sand Point, Idaho or Yosemite or maybe Lake Tahoe).
The "torch" part is that most of these conversations were initiated by the offspring rather than us, the parents. No one is passing the torch yet - it may be another decade before Art and I are ready to give up our driver's licenses or downsize to a single-level house or move to a drier climate - but we can see the next generation is ready to pick up the torch as it's needed. To give their younger siblings - or us - a hand. I told Melissa if she had any questions about our plans for our later years, she could ask. And she did. I told her where the "executor stuff" is and she didn't say, "Oh, we don't need to talk about that yet."
I've been in Art's kids' lives for 20 years. I've been an involved stepmother. Two of the six have lived with us at some point. Now I see that they have been raised well by their parents. They are taking care of each other, and they're willing to give us a hand if we need it.
They're picking up the torch. And that is a good thing.