I remember my father’s last Christmas well. He had terminal cancer and very little time left. The whole family gathered together and created a beautiful memory, even though he was so sick. At one stage, in spite of Dad’s deteriorating state, the inevitable game of indoor cricket took place in the lounge room, using a cricket bat and a ping pong ball. Dad had been a cricket coach in his time, and it was definitely one of his passions. He was sitting there in his wheelchair, attached to his oxygen machine, when he surprised us all by slowly getting up, hobbling over to my son and giving him a few final tidbits of cricketing wisdom. He couldn’t stand for long, but the effort and love were an incredibly beautiful thing to witness. I glanced with tear-filled eyes at my mother and husband, sharing that knowing look of awareness that this was one of those moments. A moment to treasure.
My mother is a truly amazing woman, a blessing to everyone she knows, and everyone she meets. Where she goes, the love grows. People feel cared for and special when she is around; particularly her very fortunate grandchildren. Every school holidays, when she isn’t working (yes, she’s 72 and still teaches piano and manages a music studio at her local church), she makes the nine hour trek north to my brother’s house to look after his children while the parents work. On the way, she stops in at our place (conveniently placed part way along her journey) and spends a couple of days with us. She washes dishes, folds washing, takes the younger kids to see a movie, and just enjoys spending time with us, as we do with her. She’s a very easy houseguest, fitting in with the flow of family life, and we always look forward to her visits.
I have often wondered what it would have been like if we hadn’t moved away from the home town where I grew up, and where Mum still lives. I’ve wondered what it would be like if my kids had grown up with extended family living in the same town. I know there would be wonderful things about that, but I tell you what, there are also wonderful things about being long-distance family. Phone calls, Skype, Facebook, and in particular those ‘special shared holidays’, where you really make the most of the time you have together because you haven’t grown accustomed to just always having them around. There is no room for complacency in appreciating the time together when it is something that happens less often.
We lived further away once, out in the Australian outback, and we saw our extended family even less often then. Usually once a year, sometimes twice, so the shared time together was even more special then. The hello hugs and farewells were deeply felt. It was during that time that my father passed away, and there were certainly challenges involved in being so far away during his illness, but again, I am just so thankful for the times we had together (and for his frequent flyer miles I was able to take advantage of!).
Anyway, all of that is really just a precursor to a couple of fun snapshots and videos from my mother’s most recent visit to our home! (The kids have grown up quite a lot since the above photo!) She taught my two youngest children a little hand clapping routine that her grandmother had taught her when she was a girl. She was passing it on to my kids, and whilst I don’t think they’ve quite perfected it yet, they had fun trying, and I wonder if they will one day pass it on to their grandchildren, and remember with fondness the grandmother that taught it to them.
After my mother had taught the kids her tricky hand manoeuvres, my kids had a trick or two to teach her! It was so much fun watching my 72-year-old mother keeping those neural pathways buzzing. 🙂
Family: we may not always see eye to eye, and it may not be perfect, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity my children have had to know their grandparents, even if from a distance, and even if for only a short time (my youngest child was only 14 months old when my father died).
If you don’t have a loving grandparent in the lives of your children, either near or far, perhaps there is a lonely older person you could adopt. There is something really beautiful about mixed age groups sharing time together.