I watch my 4-year-old grandson run at breakneck speed, and I see Son. My 2-year-old granddaughter crinkles her eyes and smiles at me, and I see Daughter. They say hilarious things. Correction: at the time they moved away last month, Granddaughter only said, “Yesh.” As in, “Do you want some more?” “Yesh.” Their baby brother had just learned to sit up, but abstained from sharing his thoughts.
Husband and I live in a five-bedroom house on the East Coast that had become an empty nest years and years ago. Suddenly it was filled with tiny feet and Honey Nut Cheerios. Son and Daughter-in-law lived a few minutes away from us with the three children they created in four years. They filled my heart with a thousand joys before departing for the West Coast a few weeks ago. We saw our grandkids almost every day, and I was a fixture at their childcare center as a reader of stories, a maker of funny faces. Now they’re gone and I’m just me again.
I have learned to accept and even embrace being a Taurus, an organized (obsessive) thinker and (compulsive) list-maker. In the chaotic silence following their exit, I set out to chronicle the steps I needed to take to get my life back in order and deal with the wave of loss that washed over my days. Here’s that list:
- Get the car seats out of my MINI (I had traded in my 2-door for a 4-door so I could transport our two grandchildren. They threw me a curve with that third baby)
- Get back to work (I had removed myself from per diem schedules at two different work places)
- Take apart the trampoline in the basement, box the toys there, and turn it into a workout space (done)
- Work out (not so much)
- Write every day. Anything. Just write.
- Be kind to myself
- Visit California
Husband and I try to be mindful that everyone deals differently with loss. I make lists; he eats pie. There is no right way, no wrong. I’ve given away the high chair and crib, taken the shelf full of children’s books to a distant room. Husband says don’t remove the gliders he assembled for Grandson from the top of the bookcase. He likes looking at them. Their artwork is still on the refrigerator (“I made this for you, Nana!”). A hooded towel with printed whales remains hanging behind the bathroom door.
Husband and I go to lunch together more often now. We see our friends. We hug each other a lot and FaceTime with the other coast. I used to keep a journal of memorable moments and I reread it when I miss them the most.
Grandson in back seat of car: Nana, did you bring me a snack?
Me: I brought you a juice.
Grandson: But you always bring me a snack, too.
Me: Well, today I just brought you a juice.
Grandson: But I want a snack.
Me: I had to work today. You should be happy that I brought you a juice.
Grandson: I want to be happy that you brought me a snack.
Mostly, Husband and I talk about how lucky we are. We had them up close for four years. Most grandparents have to do the long distance thing right from the start. We got married almost two decades ago, a second marriage for us both. Once again, we’re starting over.