I have been away from my granddaughters for the past several weeks doing something that, in my younger years, I thought I would never do, spending the winters in Florida. It’s amazing how the cold and the snow can alter one’s opinion of being a “snowbird.” The very connotation of the word used to make me shudder. Now, here I am, happy my bones ache less in the warmth that surrounds me, but sorely missing my two ever-entertaining, fun-loving granddaughters. So, what do I do? I find ways keep them close until they come to visit.
I must have viewed past videos of the girls’ earlier years dozens of times since my arrival. There are videos of two-year-old May holding an umbrella over her head as she dances around her plastic kiddy pool; May rocking on her hobbyhorse, and jumping on a trampoline. Years seem to fly by and then there is May playing soccer; learning to ride a two-wheeler and shouting, “I did it;” and, as more time progresses, May skiing down slopes at ages six, seven, and now eight. As I sit watching the video of May going down hill balancing herself on a skateboard, I think how quickly the years are passing and how I yearn to hold onto each and every one.
Along with videos of May, I watch videos of Eloise tentatively taking early steps, and Eloise taking her “babies” for a walk in their stroller. There is one of Eloise dancing to the music of “Happy” on the couch at Orange Leaf and her riding her scooter to the bakery, all the while looking back to make sure that I was close behind. I continue to scroll until I stop at images of Eloise proudly running with her hand-made paper kite, and one of her blowing bubbles in our backyard. Someday soon, I think with a sigh, she too will be riding a two-wheeler, skateboarding, surfing, and skiing like her big sister. As I watch these moments, a mixed bag of pride and melancholy fill my being.
Happily, there is Face Time, a tool that definitely brings laughter to this grandmother. Face Time with my granddaughters consists of the girls grabbing the phone from each other to make funny faces and scanning the room to include their Pug, Mr. Woo. Face Time is turning the iPhone upside down thereby distorting the images, and giving stilted answers to the open-ended questions we grandparents often ask in order to engage in a conversation. I understand their reserve and silliness. As a visual connection, this approach has its merits when grandchildren are far away. It beats not seeing them at all. However, nothing can replace the warm feeling that fills your core when a grandchild wraps her little arms around your neck and says, “I love you.”
Now that May and Eloise can read I look forward to staying connected to them through postcards and letters. Occasionally, a package with some small trinket will also find its way to them via the post office. It’s amazing how many other grandparents I meet doing the same thing for their grandchildren during my short sojourns to the local post office.
My husband and I are fortunate. We have many friends in Florida and manage to keep relatively busy. During our absence from May and Eloise, they continue to be a part of our daily interactions. Friends regale us over lunches and dinners with stories of their grandchildren, as we do ours. Trips to bookstores include a visit to the children’s section where we look for books that will appeal to their interests. Sugary treats find their way into our supermarket baskets to be set aside for when they visit. And when we see a random child at play, a big smile crosses our faces as we recall those special moments when we watched May and Eloise playing similar games.
Yes, our granddaughters are always with us, Distance does not affect the depth of love in our hearts. Memories of shared moments sustain us until the day when they get off the plane, come running into our arms, and give us that long-awaited hug. How fortunate we are to be grandparents!