Jonnie Sue and I have had the most delightful four weeks. Our son, Louis, and his wife, Katie, and their two daughters, Catherine Ann, age 3, and Canada Rose, age 1, have been with us while they are on break from his teaching job in Japan. They’ve enjoyed walks to a neighborhood park and trips to the zoo, and shopping, lots of grocery shopping.
We’ve especially enjoyed getting to know our two newest granddaughters. It’s been close quarters in our small condo, with a playpen in the middle of the living room, the living room couch a bed at night, others on an inflatable mattress in the study; and sometimes Katie’s oldest, James, age 15, visiting now and then from his boarding school, sleeping on a pallet under the dining room table. It is a closeness that would be grating except among close family, when it is truly a joy and a blessing. We might never enjoy this closeness again, for when they return from Japan in July they’ll be moving into their own home. We even had the pleasure of dinner all together with Louis’s oldest child, Howard, who drove up from Virginia Beach, on the occasion of his 25th birthday.
They leave today. There is some dread about the flight. Being confined in such a small space for so long is very hard with two baby girls. But away they must go, as we all must do what we must do.
And they’re gone. In the 30 minutes between typing the previous paragraph and beginning this one, a cab has come, the children were bundled up, and the essentials going back to Japan were pulled together, followed by hugs, well-wishes, be-carefuls, and moist eyes. A last minute check for passports before boarding the cab, and then it is whisking them off to Dulles in what one hopes is the last snowfall of this Winter.
And once again it is just the two of us. The laughter and exploration of children and the constant swirl of everything that wasn’t put up out of reach is replaced by a strange quiet and stillness. It is such a difference it seems abnormal – like something essential is missing, but with Skype we will stay in touch until we we see them again.
“Almighty God, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so kindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 25-March-2014.