Thirteen years ago, a wonderful job opportunity opened up in New Jersey for my son-in-law, Josh. I was the most supportive mom-in-law I know—Yay, Josh!—until it became clear that he planned to take my daughter, Summer, and our grandchildren with him.
When my husband, Gary, and I were able to visit
the Far East New Jersey, we started a tradition of taking each grandchild out one at a time: hot chocolate or an ice cream cone and our undivided attention.
I was in Jersey this past week while Josh and Summer attended a conference. Now that there are six grands, the logistics for one-on-ones are a bit more challenging.
But I did manage to take The Teens out to dinner, and did dates with The Littles one at a time in the playroom over homemade Chai tea and my undivided attention.
We kept on schedule this past week—school, chores, homework, play—and we added boisterous memories to the movie reels playing in my head:
A Saturday picnic lunch.
Games of Uno and Sequence.
Bacon and eggs and pancakes for dinner one night because they love breakfast for dinner.
An afternoon browse through Barnes & Noble.
Our communities of people—our tribe, writing critique group, cancer-kicking walk/hike/snowshoe crew, knitting posse, church family, support system, co-workers, team—will look different for each person.
This insight from Henri Nouwen:
Community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another.
It’s not always easy to stay connected, to give each other our undivided attention, to co-suffer in compassion with the team member who’s hurting, to build burbling memories.
It takes a commitment of time and effort.
But the reward of belonging—of having each other’s backs, of being in service to each other—far exceeds the investment it takes to stay plugged in.
Being the math genius that He is, God established the exponential power of community — of marriage, and family, and friendships, and villages where we’re stronger, more fiercely loving, more resilient together than on our own.
God inspired dinner tables and gathering places where people can share food and laughter and love and wisdom because He knew we would need each other. He knew we would be better together.
And now I’m sitting in an east coast airline terminal, waiting to board a plane back to central Oregon, and reflecting on the thirteen years that have skimmed past since Josh took Summer and the two grandkids to the Far East …
… thirteen years since I knew we’d only get to see them maybe once a year, if that,
… thirteen years since four more grands were added to the family,
… thirteen years since I was sure these added family members wouldn’t know me if we only got together once a year.
But I was wrong.
Because although Gary and I couldn’t afford to get on a flight very often, we called these people regularly. On Skype, on FaceTime.
Cost: Free, as in zero dollars.
And when we did get to visit, we set aside some sacred time alone with each grandkid, the gift of letting them know how really and truly important they are to us.
And we tried to plan some simple, memory-making ventures with the grands in mind.
Even though Gary’s at home in heaven, my relationship with each of these kiddos is strong.
But that didn’t happen all by itself.
Our people are irreplaceable. But oftentimes we don’t fully realize this until it’s too late. I know this from experience.
Life on this Tilt-a-Whirl globe guarantees that we won’t always have the people we love here with us. Guaranteed.
And so maybe we should stay connected in whatever way we can. Now. Maybe we should invest the time, the effort, the inconvenience.
And see if the dividends don’t pay exponentially beyond all expectation.
A final thought
The Littles commandeered my reading glasses one afternoon, making fun of me, I think.
Who wouldn’t want to give up her spare time and catch red-eye flights to put up with such disrespectful grandchildren?!
In all seriousness, I’m honored every time Josh and Summer ask me to pitch in, that they would entrust me with their children, entrust me not to corrupt or spoil them too terribly, not to break too many of the rules.
Although, it seems that every time I show up, there is some inadvertent rule-breaking: “Mom lets us stay up late on school nights and watch TV.”
Oh, OK. If Mom says …
And every time I show up, there’s bound to be some corruption where everyone is sworn to secrecy: “We probably don’t want to mention the Barnes & Noble chocolate chunk cookies to Mom or Dad, right?”
But isn’t this why God made grandparents?