Once in a great while, time rolls together like waves on the shore, letting us see all at once the past, present and forever _ life as one great journey.
Recently I took a walk with my youngest. It was a short walk, but a good one. We try to keep in touch, he and I, with phone calls and texts, but this was the first time we’d been in the same time zone in almost six months, and I was hungry to spend time with him, just the two of us.
My daughter-in-law, bless her, read my mind. Mothers often do that for each other. She loaded their three little ones in the car to go to the beach and suggested to her husband that we should go out to breakfast together.
Are you sure you want to walk, Mom?” he said. “It’s a short walk, but we could drive.”
My ankle was stifff from a break months ago, but the day was glorious, not to be missed.
“I’m good,” I said, “let’s walk.”
A 10-minute stroll took us to the coffee shop at the Asilomar Conference Center. Part of the walk included an old railroad track. The rails were long gone and the path was lovely. But at times, like life, it got a bit rocky.
“Here, Mom,” said the boy, “take my hand.”
It had been a while since he last held my hand. I had watched him hold his children, rock them to sleep, pick them up, swing them high in the air. But I found myself wondering: When did his hands get so big?
He had often held my hand over the years. The minute he was born, he grabbed hold of my thumb and my heart and refused to let them go. Learning to walk, he held my hand for balance. When he started preschool, he held it for comfort. When he was 20, he held it to steady me as we left the memorial service for his dad. And years later, when I remarried, he held it again, beaming, as he and his brother walked me down the aisle.
He is 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and 200-plus pounds. I know perfectly well he’s not a baby any more. But somehow, until that moment on an old railroad path, I never noticed how his hand swallows mine.
The realization made me smile, nod and say, “Hmm.” I seem to do that a lot these days.
The next evening, we got together for burritos, the boy and his family, my daughter and her little one, Henry, and me. After dinner, while my daughter and her brother spent time catching up, and my daughter-in-law cleared the dishes, I sat like a queen mother on a throne feasting on my granchildren.
Randy is 6. Henry is 5. Wiley is 4. Eleanor is 2. They have the same hair, curly and thick. The boys wear theirs short, more or less, but Elle’s hangs to her waist. And the colors range from Randy’s red, to Wiley’s brown, to Elle’s brown with blonde highlights, to Henry’s jet black. I took a picture of the tops of their sweet heads all bent close together over a big tub of Legos.
I wish you could see it.
When Henry’s mama said it was time to go, he didn’t want to leave. He loves his cousins and their Legos. When he began to cry, Randy wrapped him in his arms and wept along with him. I knew exactly how they felt.
When they finally parted, Randy asked me to get an ice-cream bar from the freezer.
“It’s for Henry, Nana,” he said, “to make him feel better.”
I put the bar in a baggie. Randy kissed it and gave it to Henry, who smiled a little smile through his tears. Ice-cream and kisses are always good medicine.
The best of times come to an end, leaving us great memories and hopes for another time. But sometimes we get a glimpse of our lives _ past, present and forever _ to remind us of how blessed we truly are.
Families reunite. Cousins cling to each other. And boys grow up to be fine men _ husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles _ and sons, who still hold our hands.
I won’t soon forget it.