Journalcalling #6: I’m In Love With The Sound Of This Word

Journalcalling   •   August 26, 2020

I pulled the plug on her inflatable bed and put the bedding in the wash even before she left. I thought I could steel myself from the sadness once I returned from driving my granddaughter and daughter-in-law to the airport. I would not have to see the Minnie Mouse blanket and pillowcase where we had snuggled and read her favorite books, The Giving Tree and The Rainbow Fish night after night.

I didn’t count on the half eaten granola bar at the kitchen table and the smear of yogurt on the glass top — remnants of her last meal here for a few months. Three-year-old Nora’s pattering feet and lilting voice had filled our home for two weeks, and now that she is back home in Denver 2,000 miles away, I’m adjusting.

Due to Covid, the trip was on and off and on again, and I have a whole new appreciation for my daughter-in-law for braving the journey and lighting up my summer. My son could not accompany them due to his clinical rotations at nursing school.

When I returned from Boston, I packed things away quickly — storing her booster seat and stuffing into its box the splash pad she had squealed and cavorted across in the yard. I left the games and puzzles and ladybug soccer ball — all new purchases — tucked into the bookshelves in our den. I want to relive our sweet mornings sprawled on the floor playing The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel and Candyland, when she already seemed to know how to bend the rules to her advantage. “I got a double!” Again?

I reveled in her big presence which often seemed at odds with her three-foot body. Swimming at the beach for the first time in her life, she ran straight into the ocean and only stopped when she was up to the tops of her legs and her mother yelled. When a seagull stole her PBJ, she cheered as her mom raced down the beach to get it back then pointed her own outstretched arm to chastise the thieving bird. At friend’s pools, she swam in the deep-end using only her powerful legs and a facemask.

“Hold your arms out, Nana. Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move,” she instructed me before plunging in. She kicked forward with her splayed fingers reaching for me, and a huge grin spread across her face as she folded into my arms with her pounding heart. She insisted on going again and again, this new-found freedom taking her breath away.

I let her go hoping she will always reach for me. When my oldest son got married in Colorado and his beautiful wife gave birth to my first grandchild, I was afraid that I would never truly know her. I rued the day ten years before that I had bought my son a one-way ticket to Denver to pursue his dream of skiing the Rockies. I didn’t think he’d stay.

Together we have made it work. They welcome me into their home at least twice a year where I share a bedroom with my girl. One morning after I had arrived as she slept, she bolted for her mom, exclaiming, maybe a bit nervously, “Mom, Nana is in the bed!”

This time, when I picked them up at the airport, she ran into my arms. “Nana, you sit in the back with me,” she said, and the golden adventure began. A week after their departure, tickets were secured for their little family to return here in December, and I’m already eyeing a trip to Denver in February for her birthday. I never dreamed I’d be so in love with the sound of “nana”.