The End of a Visit

I don’t do well with goodbyes. It has never been my strong suit. “See you next time” has never been much of a comfort, though goodbyes are an inevitable part of living. My fun-packed “company’s coming” extravaganza was always going to end with a goodbye; there was no way around that. I would like to have recorded all the exchanges between my grandchildren so I can replay the video in slo-mo in my head, to revisit the precious moments when sunshine is scarce and when the quiet is heavy, after they’ve gone.

Three of my four grandchildren had the opportunity to be together. Abby is four and her cousin Liam is six months younger and Aiden is six. I sometimes require a translator to interpret the details of their stories, but most of the time I get the nugget of their wisdom. Abby struggles to pronounce her L words and Liam fits dab smack in the middle of that struggle. Aiden’s name rolls off Abby’s tongue with ease. Liam became “the yellow boy”. I bought them each a t-shirt upon which I placed a transfer that says, “cousins are for keeps”. Liam’s t-shirt, as you might guess, is yellow. He doesn’t mind being yellow boy. He takes most of life’s offerings in his stride, though he has solid boundaries as to what he is and is not willing to do and he is quite clear on that subject. He seems genuinely happy with being yellow boy, and the name may stick where Abby and I are concerned.

Liam is a no fear kinda kid. He runs at full speed, he jumps from alarming heights, he is ready to do battle with all the imaginary dragons. In his speed, he sometimes wipes out and he usually gets back to his feet, brushes himself off and carries on. The other day he had a bad fall and Abby was at the ready to soothe and comfort yellow boy. “Are you okay,” she asked with genuine concern, as she bent over him, brushing the sand from his knees and elbows. “Yes,” Liam said, a matter-of-fact tone to his voice, trying to disguise his discomfort as best he could. “That’s why my shorts are always dirty,” he told her. “You should be careful,” Abby advised, a simple solution, in her mind. Liam shook his head. He knows this much about himself – speed is the only way to go. Aiden is a builder of things, a future engineer I think, a sorter out of the how of things. I love watching their uniqueness and how they fit together.

We went to the ocean while they were here, on a splendidly bright shiny day. The waves were crashing, the water was somewhat warm, warm for the ocean, and we played, played hard. Liam was the first one in, running at full speed, as usual, until he was completely submerged, his dad in hot pursuit to perform whatever rescue mission might be required. We dug in the sand and basked in the beauty of the day.

Liam’s and Aiden’s mommy and I stayed at the edge, our toes in the water, the waves swatting at us with a determined desire to douse us in salt water. We decided it would be fun to do a cartwheel on the firm wave-packed sand, cartwheels I did with ease when Samantha was little but I’m guessing, at this point in the game, looked more like a sack of potatoes rolling out of a chair. The gymnastics ship has sailed in my life. The sight, though not a pretty one, was certainly worth the guffaws and the throbbing wrists that followed.

When I had to say goodbye to the yellow boy and Aiden, my tears ran free, and an ache moved into my stomach that felt permanent. “I’ll miss you,” I said to them. “We’ll see you again, Grandma,” Aiden said, calmly certain. “It’s okay, Grandma,” said yellow boy. And it is okay, but I can’t quite remember who I was before they arrived.