I slept as if in a coma last night. Al and I were outside yesterday, gardening behind where our very old, very large live oak tree grows on the front corner of our property. Our driveway wraps around behind this area from one street to the other street that intersect at our corner lot. Our house sits low from the street. THE TREE is magnificent! Depending on who you ask, it is estimated to be 1-200 years old. I don’t know if this is a correct guess on the trees age, but I do know that THIS tree has a commanding presence on our property and we love it!
We built our home 18 years ago and over this time, we have been planting all the open grounds of our property. It has been fun “creating” while adding to the beauty of our community. For my part, I wanted our property to resemble a place in the country, so a LOT of planting has occurred over the years. Our neighbors like the look and often tell us so, which pleases us very much.
Thirteen years ago the first of our two grandchildren was born. Oh, my, how exciting that time was for us! We went crazy and bought a plethora of baby supplies and furniture in anticipation of many imagined visits to our home. In our excitement, we didn’t think to take into account the huge distance between where we live and where our Granddaughters live. We also did not take into account the careers in education of our son and daughter in law.. Had we done so, we could have saved ourselves a lot of disappointment in unrealistic expectations. But, since life is all about learning lessons, we had many lessons ahead of us, and they were not necessarily going to be easy ones.
Our front corner is somewhat symbolic of our aspirations in grand parenting and in our determination to make an impact in the lives of our granddaughters. The land on which our house is built is solid rock. Many times when I have put my shovel into the earth and pressed down with my foot, it would only go so far before I would hear the clinking sound of rock. I would find myself thinking of an old hymn I used to hear in church, “On Christ the solid rock I stand”. Over these many years, we have dug into the rock, or I should say we chopped away at the rock with our pick ax and with our “texas toothpick”, chipping and cracking the rock that lies about 4 inches below this misleading vision of soft brown soil. We have dislodged many large stones as we chipped away at solid limestone and caliche which is even worse than rock because it is like the most dense of rubber where it will NOT crack or chip. We brought in truck loads of dirt and compost to give our plants a chance at life. We planted and cleared according to our home drawn design. The end result has become not only a very large tree in the center of the front corner of our property, but also a wicker swing hanging from the front of the tree. To the right of the swing are two tall poles topped with lovely and inviting birdhouses. To the left of the swing is an arbor with a gate and a plaque with our address on it with a granite path leading to it from the street. All around the front we have planted low growing shrubs and two large patches of african iris flanking the swing.
When one opens the gate leading to the backside of the tree you will immediately see two signs. Each sign has the name of each granddaughter with Avenue and Court added to their name. This was supposed to be their secret garden. Hanging down from the back of the tree is a giant hammock chair. Leaning against the tree is a home made ladder to assist them in a climb up onto the wide horizontal branches if they so desire. Farther up in the tree is an owl house which Al bought and brought home and had installed a year and a half ago. Last spring, when our granddaughters flew in with our son, they immediately ran up to the tree to check it out and within a couple of days, our very first owl was peeking out of the owl house. Such excitement! They named her Kevin. When asked how they chose that name our younger grand daughter said “I dunno, it just seems like a really good name.” During this same visit, we discovered that honey bees had taken up residence in the front eave of our house. We ended up having to have a bee keeper come out to remove them which was a new experience for all of us. More excitement!
As fun as all of this was for everyone, the truth is, we only get to enjoy grandchildren at our home once a year for somewhere between 5-7 days. That is it! This is the result of our move to Texas 18 years ago. It is also because only one of our children gave us grandchildren, and also because our only grandchildren live in Minnesota. This is how this part of our life has been dealt to us. My husband and I fly up or drive up to Minnesota twice a year to spend time with their family. They come here once a year. Add this together and we see our granddaughters three….times…..a….year! Yup! That is how it it is!
Our granddaughters see their maternal grandparents on a very frequent basis. Our son has become close to his wife’s family which pleases us because it gives him family to associate with near by. All of his family of origin now lives in Texas and have all been here for a long time. The difficult part for us is the feeling that because of time and place and circumstance, and because of decisions we made long ago, his wife’s family enjoys all the blessings close proximity brings with it and we miss out on so much.
This does not mean he does not love us anymore because I know he does. He shows his love in emails, texts and phone calls. He comes down once a year to spend time with us. What it does mean, though, is that 18 years ago, without us realizing it at the time, our move to Texas would alter our family life forever. We never have a holiday with all of our children at one table at the same time. We do celebrate our holidays in Texas with our other children, but here too, there are other families to consider, now that they are grown up and have become involved in the fabric of their loved ones families as well. We know that our grandchildren will have no Norman Rockwell holiday picture memories with their Texas Grand parents at the holiday dinner table. I guess the big question here is, IS it REALLY all that important? Perhaps it is time to tell Norman Rockwell to take a hike!
Now, let me say this! Contrary to how other people’s lives are sometimes presented to us in the perfection of the happy pictures we see, we KNOW that nobody “gets it all”. So many on this earth deal with disappointment and devastating illness, and occasionally heart wrenching loss. So, OUR issue of having long distance grandchildren shouldn’t really count as one of life’s problems.
Yesterday, in anticipation of an upcoming visit, we were busy enlarging the backside area of our big tree to make more room for the girls to swing in larger and wider arcs without intersecting with bushes. Yes, we even dug up and removed some the the bushes we planted long ago, in honor of our granddaughters visit. We were so pleased with how it turned out, that even as we hobbled down the driveway to the house in a state of happy exhaustion, we knew we were READY!
Our son told us a while ago that the day after they arrive in Austin, they wanted to drive to Dallas for a couple of days so the girls could see where his sister, their Aunt lives. Lovely idea! Our daughter was thrilled. Then yesterday, when we got into the house and opened the computer. We saw an email from him. He told us he would also possibly be attending a sporting event in which his wife’s nephew was participating, which would be played up in Dallas (4 hours from here) and depending on the wins, it may last 4 of the 7 days they had planned to be in Texas. The sports event is a very, very big deal as a play off resulting from a college season consisting of mostly wins. Our son wanted to support his nephew by attending the games with his daughters. We totally understand the importance of this, but our selfish side was pouting. We were thinking, he is flying all the way to Texas for spring break and still ends up spending more time with his wife’s family than with us. Do we sound like petulant children? Probably….but it was disappointment rearing its ugly head.
We took a while to absorb this new possibility in the upcoming visit. Ultimately, as Al and I discussed this, I said, “In the end, we all have to sweep aside the disappointments that clutter the view of our blessings right here and now. It is only in our prayers for grace where we will find acceptance of the things not handed to us. As I did the mental sweep of this latest disappointment, there it was! THE BLESSING so long and strong and still present in our life! The blessing of our son taking the time and absorbing the cost of flying the girls to Texas see us. It shouldn’t matter about how long the visit, but rather the fact that there is a visit in the first place. We get to enjoy the blessing of seeing our son. We get to enjoy the blessing of a family with grandchildren. Al and I have a long and enduring marriage and get to spend a great deal of time with each other. All of our children are busy and productive members of society. We are clear about their love for us. We just don’t get to have the picture perfect lives that others tell us they have when describing their life. We realize that we cannot and should not have all that our hearts desire in this life. So a way to deal with the disappointments is to keep sweeping them aside like one sweeps a floor. Sweep, sweep them all up into a mental dustpan, and dispose. Floor looks good again. Life looks good again too when we do this, because once again we are choosing to give our blessings front row seats in our mind.
While we are tending to the beautiful green of our gardens and the small patch of grass that graces the front of our house, our appreciation for the green that exists here in our own front yard means we are not paying attention to the color of anyone else’s grass. So, our little secret garden with the great big hammock swing won’t be used as long as we had imagined on this trip? SO WHAT? It will be used and enjoyed by the girls whatever length of time they are here and so we choose to be content with that.
After they have boarded the plane and gone back north, Al and I will get into our giant hammock chair and lean way back. We will swing in long, low, sweeping arcs, all the while looking up at the long, curvy branches of our old oak tree. As we do this I know we will begin to feel our inner child come back into our life and this child will definitely enjoy our secret garden. After all, it was this child who helped us design and create this space in the first place. We built this area for children to enjoy and never realized that not only would our grandchildren enjoy this space, but so would our very own inner child. Life is like that isn’t it? From moment to moment, you never know how the blessings will present themselves. I think I will order two more signs with our name on them.
“Al Avenue” and “Juanita Way” has a nice ring to them, don’t you think?
This musing is about keeping our expectations in life realistic and making the most of the life one gets. There is so much out there to be grateful for…especially adult children who are making their own way in this world, who are good people, good citizens and good family.
Oh, and when I was s peaking of grass? Life is good as long as we are still walking on the grass versus laying beneath. Amen to that!