Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Quiet House, Full Hearts....

I know, that title reeks of the sentimental, doesn't it? But what can I say? Sentiment 'R' Us when we've just had a most successful visit with daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-love. It's been 5 months and way too many thousand kilometres, and as brilliant as modern technology is -- thank you, email and FaceTime and WhatsApp and Skype, et cetera-- there is still nothing like an old-fashioned bear hug. 
Or getting a toddler to fall asleep on your torso and an hour later, baby still magically asleep, wishing you'd made a better plan for lumbar support. I mean, FaceTime is occasionally tough on my wrist or neck, but I don't still feel it in my hip two days later. The baby's warm, pliable weight though? That I should have surrendered to her granddad much sooner when we walked home from the bus on Saturday? That weight left some real material consequences to the drive train on the left side of my body, and I'll accept them all over again next time she reaches her little arms up to me after some solemn studying of my person. Apparently, Paul and I have passed muster again as Granddad and Nana, and that's worth all the joint strain that old-school contact and communication demands. Up close and personal for the win! And let the sloppy sentiment prevail!

We had two full days together, plus a good portion of the two travel days, and although we had to consider Frankie's sleep time, she was remarkably good-natured and flexible in her schedule. We managed to see a few Bordeaux sights, do some shopping (Daughter has promised a blogpost on this), ate some Thai food (as much as these new ex-pats love the Italian food in Rome, they occasionally crave a hit of something different, and found much more of that on offer here in Bordeaux), shopped and ate oysters and crepes at the market, even navigated a few emotional discussions together with the occasional tear but no storms.

The kind of visit you wish could have been longer, although you wouldn't have wanted to mess with its easy, just slightly messy perfection. And I have to admit that knowing how soon they'd be leaving made it easy to give all while they were here. I'll also admit to tiring more quickly than I once did, and just between you and me, I had a nap as soon as we got back from the airport today. The quiet felt, yes, empty but also rather luxurious as we drank our tea, especially once we got the reassuring text that they'd landed safely. Just the two of us to arrange dinner for, and I think we'll just walk up the road for Steak-Frites or whatever the evening formule might be.... We'll probably talk a bit about our good fortune, and Paul may well comment again, as he did on our walk home through the park this afternoon, "if someone had told us five years ago that our kids would be living in Rome one day and come to visit us in a house we rent in Bordeaux, we'd never have believed it." I might counter that five years ago, given a modicum of imagination, it wouldn't really have sounded that unlikely. But swirl those clock hands back, say, 20, 30, or 40 years ago, then Oh yeah, we might have found that preposterous. And perhaps upsetting, to think our grandchildren might grow up far away, our children live across the world from us. I'm still not entirely reconciled to the concept, truth be told, but this weekend visit reassured me considerably that closeness can be maintained across the distance. (I do realize how precious and privileged and even trite, I guess, all this sounds in light of so many desperate refugees and migrants. But I can't see that denying or ignoring my own reality makes me more compassionate to others'. Instead, using mine as a starting point, I can more clearly imagine the magnified pain of familial separation as a spur to donate and act appropriately.)

Now how to close after all that mucky sentiment? I could ask what distances you have to overcome in your family, and how difficult or easy you've found that. Any advice to offer or frustrations to share? We were lucky, this trip, that the kids caught a cheap flight out for a long weekend, and we'll have another week together next month. Often, the high price of travel means a long visit in close quarters, with certain attendant risks of
crankiness. Do you manage to avoid this or do you just accept that there will be the occasional squabble and try not to take it personally. C'mon now, spill.... #kiddingnotkidding as the kids say, but you know I'd love to read your comments. Thanks for reading!
 
 
 


20 comments:

  1. Your story of being welded to a chair by a sleeping baby made me smile. Grand daughter had an unexpectedly long sleep on my lap nestled into a swinging egg chair, do you know the sort? We were in the warm but not too hot sun and I was able to shade her and let her nap for nearly two hours, but my neck was in the most peculiar position! It is the longest I have ever sat still in the garden. The longest separation from a child was the year my son went to study in Japan. It was the time difference that was so hard to adjust to but Skype helped a lot.

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    1. Lucille, that's lovely! I can just imagine the two of you swinging gently in the sunshine.
      Yes, the time difference is a challenge, calculating and remembering and taking advantage of the windows that work. Our phone chirruped out the FaceTime signal from one of ours at 3 a.m. last week, the 9hour difference mistakenly calculated in the wrong direction...

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  2. Oh,lucky,lucky you! If I could borrow one or two of your grandchildren from time to time.....
    Well,my son has got his master this summer,(as I did or didn't say here),home,in Zagreb,and decided to take another master in London this year. He started ten days ago. So,I'm pretty fresh empty-nested ( if such a word even exist)
    Every excuse to visit London is a good one! I feel happy that he took London,because last year he did internship in London and New York during the summer
    I completely understand how you feel,with an ocean between you and your beautiful italian branch of family,but Rome is beautiful town. Are they there for a long period of time?
    Dottoressa

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    1. I am very lucky with the grandchildren, I know!
      Wow! Two Master's degrees for your son...good that he's picked London, a fabulous place to "have to" visit. That's how we feel about Rome as well, except that for us, of course, the visits bite much more deeply into the budget. And yes, for several years, most likely, and it doesn't look as if they'll be coming back "home" for the foreseeable future. More likely would be another country....

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  3. I spent many years on the other side of your story - away from parents and extended family. No internet, no phone, just letters. It was HARD. But I'm so thankful today for the relationships forged between grandparents and children through letters, periodic visits in either direction, and lots of love.
    There's nothing sweeter than holding a sleeping baby, I think.

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    1. I really appreciate you commenting from the other side, Lorrie. I am so impressed by how well my daughter has done in adjusting to the long days she must spend on her own with he'd little one while J is at work. No Italian at all, at first, but having to find out where and how to buy groceries, how to ask for contact lens solution, find a paediatrician, all the little mundane tasks that make up our lives. No one else you can trust to leave the baby with long enough to get a head-clearing break. Tough stuff. But you managed it beautifully and it enriched your life. I see my daughter doing this as well, and I am so proud of her! And happy for my granddaughter to have the opportunity to learn another language and culture.
      and holding the sleeping baby? Nothing sweeter at all, I'm sure of it!

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  4. Sounds so, so perfect. And I think that crankiness, the squabbles, the few tears, they are part of the travel at its best. It means you've gotten close enough to move the relationship forward. xox.

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    1. Yes, I believe this too! Relaxing into the possibility of conflict and trusting that it can be resolved. Moving the relationship forward. Nicely put.

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  5. The photos of your little Frankie are adorable. I live only a mile from my mother and my daughter so I haven't experienced the emotional "tugs" that you must feel. The time that you spend together is precious even if there are the normal family squabbles.
    Right now, the news of closed borders and barbed wire in Europe is horrible but hopefully the people of the world can unite to offer aid and sanctuary.

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    1. I misspoke if I gave the impression that we squabbled this visit, but we stayed honest and sometimes that brings a tear or two. Longer visits in close quarters, though, seem harder to manage without some crankiness in my experience with my parents. Haven't had that with my kids yet. But I could see how it might happen.

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  6. This all sounds lovely. No trite detected. And while we all imagine family merriment and utter perfection - just think how we idealise Christmas and what a living nightmare that can be - families are just people who are linked together very closely. No wonder we fall out at times. Thing is: we can't unfriend them. And a snooze is very European.

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    1. So true, Annie. The pressures of that idealization can be intense and negative.
      If a snooze is very European, then I qualify as a Euro citizen already! 😉

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  7. Like Lorrie above, I spent years writing letters home, every week or two. Now my boys are just in downtown Ottawa and I keep up with them through Facebook messaging and the odd phone call (plus we take them out to dinner now and again). But I can't imagine how I'd feel if one or both moved abroad - makes me sad for my mum all those years ago.

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    1. Too funny, Patricia, and too true! I can see how we mig end up spending more time, over a year, with the expat branch than with one of the other kids who might be going through a really busy patch of life. Especially in those university years, the contact is often the techno-variety, and they might q well be living across an ocean or continent.
      My dad always felt torn, all his life, I think, about having left his beloved family, especially his mom, behind in northern England and making his life in Canada....it must have been so hard in those days when travel and communication were slower and more expensive.

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  8. Love that mucky sentiment! As for me, my chick lives on the opposite coast, but is getting married here, and that involves more-than-the-usual traveling and organizing - I don't care if crankiness ensues (actually, I don't remember that happening, but certainly the after-visit sadness is real), I'm just happy to look forward when I can . . .

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    1. Wow! That must pose some logistical challenges, planning a wedding together across that distance. But I bet it will mean some wonderful mother-daughter sessions, more excuses for visits!

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  9. Having walked in your shoes for the past six years, I'll share my very best advice. Whenever you buy a book, send a copy to your daughter. Read to Frankie via FaceTime ! Initially I read to my grandsons and my daughter turned the pages. We have now progressed to the point where they FaceTime me independently for a story. It is always the highlight of my day!

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    1. As the Reading Matriarch of a reading family, I love this advice! Mind you, I sent Frankie three books for her birthday last month and the postage was more than the price of another book! I must schedule a FqceTime reading session with the almost-three-year-old back home though. What a charming idea, thank you!

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  10. How sweet and tender your reunion! So much love stored up and released with sudden, natural ease.

    Yes, so many families face separation without the hope of reunions, let alone in comfort. I am grateful you acknowledge that, and of course you would!

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  11. Thanks, K! So happy that you will soon be experiencing the riches of grand parenthood, although you're already obviously swimming in the fullness of family life. That move to Montreal was so good.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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