I prepared myself as I anticipated the summer visit from my daughter and her family. Schedules would be upside down, and so would the house. I’d be cooking up a storm some days and other days they’d be out on their own and I’d barely catch a glimpse of them. I finished the bathroom just in time, got the beds freshly made and the rooms ready. Stacks of towels were waiting in the closet, the refrigerator and pantry were stocked with their favorite foods. Minutes before they were due I took a deep breath to take in all the peace and quiet and then exhaled to let it all go.
They arrived and the whirlwind ensued. Within minutes my five-year-old granddaughter had me wrapped around her finger with her sweetness, charm and that curly ponytail that had grown several inches in the six months since Christmas. As usual, she melted my heart as she raptly listened as I read to her. Our eight-year-old grandson with his blond crew cut and large blue eyes had joined Little League and our tradition of playing catch and Nerf gun wars wasn’t quite the same anymore. His speed and aim have significantly improved and I could see it’s just a matter of time before he plays with me only to be polite to his dear old grandma. Sigh.
There were late night talks with my daughter and son-in-law. Katie and I went over old recipes and I gave her some things I wanted her to have. Josh helped my husband chop down the trees that hadn’t made it through last year’s drought. We made s’mores with Uncle Ian and Aunt Erin around the fire before the mosquito bites made us run for the indoors. We all ate too much and did too much and it was wonderful.
What I didn’t prepare for was how fast the two weeks would go. They left today, in their cherry red truck, waving and beeping and shouting thank you’s. I stood in the driveway and waved as they disappeared around the corner. My feet seemed rooted in the spot. Letting go. It was harder this time. I lingered out there, their voices still ringing in my ears.
Why is it this way, this fullness that life takes on when loved ones are around? As mom I’m still the protector, my world is right and good when they’re around me, even though they’re older now. I know they’re safe when they’re here, that for a brief time I don’t have to wonder or worry. I love going to sleep knowing we’re all together and we’re all where we need to be.
But, it’s temporary. It’s vacation. They really need to go back to their lives and their futures, as do I. I have to let go.
As I walk inside, I smell the blueberry waffles we made for breakfast. The house is not quite so upside down anymore but I’m in no hurry to wash sheets and straighten the few things up. The TV is on, the silent movie my daughter was enjoying reminds me how much she is like me. Next time I see her, Lord willing, she’ll be holding the baby she is expecting. Time to embrace yet another love. A love that will likely break my heart a little, too. But there’s always room for more.
Yes, tears fill my eyes, I will miss them terribly. I look at my hands with five blue nails and five red nails, painted last night with Tinkerbell polish by my granddaughter. They will stay this way for a while. I see the juice boxes I forgot to send with them. Their bedrooms smell of them, the faint scent of their laundry soap lingers. It was such a good visit. I want to call them back, they’re still just miles from home, but I can’t, I have to let them go.
Now the dishes are washed, the sheets are in the laundry, the rugs are vacuumed and I’ve thrown out that awful red micro something blanket I bought for the guest room that sheds red lint all over the place. I find a part of toy that dropped on the wrong side of the bed. I find two pieces of wrapped bubble gum hidden in a secret spot, the can of bug spray they left behind. I touch them all. I chew a piece of bubble gum. I keep willing myself to let them go, but it’s so, so hard.
I find that in all the giving I do to prepare for them, to make their vacation special and fun and as easy as possible, it is I who have been given the most. It’s a gift to do these things, to provide this little respite for them. To soak up the love and charm of grandchildren, to see one’s adult children so blessed and so in the middle of all that is good in this life; these are things we are not promised, some do not get. Yet here I am, blessed beyond measure. It is I who have received the greatest gift, the greatest satisfaction. And I’m oh so grateful, but it has taken me by surprise. I wasn’t prepared for that.