The oldest granddaughter is sick. She is congested and has a slight temperature. At a little over two-years old these sorts of things hit a little harder than for those who are older . . . so, there is a little concern. The concern is that the granddaughter is not her usual exuberant self, chatting away at a hundred miles an hour and making everyone smile. She is sick, but doing well; yet, there is concern. Her momma doesn’t like seeing her child sick and it concerns her . . . she just doesn’t like seeing the little imp sick and feeling yucky. She has said, “If I could, I would be sick for her.”
I think that is the unspoken sentiment at the Keener homestead this week . . . if I could. It has been a long week filled with lots of long conversations, some laughter, lots of tears, and a whole bunch of “presence” for one another. Our daughter has been battling post-partum depression for the past couple of months that creates a lot of anxiety for her. To top it off her husband, our son-in-law, is on duty flying a helicopter back from the New York area for the Montana National Guard . . . so, the daughter is going through all of this and doing single parenting all on her own. She and the two granddaughters have been spending a few nights at the homestead as her medicine adjusts. It has been a long, long week for everyone involved. Through it all, though the wife and I have never said it, we have thought, “If I could . . .”
It has been a joy having the daughter and two granddaughters staying with us. Each night when I get home from working at the university in the big city, the oldest granddaughter—the sick one—has been waiting at the door for her grandpa to go for a walk around the neighborhood. For four evenings she and I have cruised around the neighborhood . . . played in the autumn leaves . . . walked on yard ledges . . . picked crab apples . . . chased after bunnies . . . and, she has held my hand as we walked. Actually, she has my finger because she is still a pretty petite little lady . . . talking the whole time.
Our daily walks tripped a memory switch.
When my granddaughter’s mother was the same age she, too, waited for me to come home from work so that we could go for a walk around the neighborhood. Actually, it was to give her mother a break. Together the two of us would walk around the block. We would check out the neighbor’s ducks. We would jump over the cracks in the sidewalk. We would pick flowers out of neighbors’ gardens . . . and, she would hold tightly to one of my fingers and yak all the way around the block. Now, over two decades later, I was being blessed once again with the second generation’s presence. Déjà vu.
Yesterday and today, I cannot express the depth of the love I have felt in these leisurely strolls around the neighborhood. The depth of that love cannot be expressed in words as it is a feeling deeply embedded within my heart. I think that it is best expressed in hugs, laughter, and tears. It is a love that makes me think that “if I could . . .”
If I could . . . I would remove the anxiety of post-partum depression that grips my daughter’s heart. I would take it upon myself to remove the pain and loneliness of it in her life. I would take away the dark clouds . . . the uncertainty . . . and, the anger. Anger that this presence has cursed her life and made her sad. If I could . . . I would take it upon myself.
If I could . . . I would receive the virus or whatever it is that is making my granddaughter sick. I would take away the temperature . . . the runny nose . . . the aches and pains. I would remove the tiredness. I would receive the illness in order for her to be back to her old self once again. If I could . . . would take it upon myself.
I think that that is the prayer of any parent or grandparent . . . if I could. The problem is . . . we can’t. We cannot take the place of our children or grandchildren in their time of pain and suffering . . . in their time of hurt and illness . . . in their time of need. No, we cannot. All we can do is to offer an encouraging word . . . the whispered prayer . . . and, our presence. That is what we have done this past week as parents, grandparents, and family . . . to our daughter and granddaughters. We have held them tightly. We have offered encouraging words. We have shed a few tears. We have laughed. And, we have taken walks . . . magical walks that only a grandpa and a two-year old granddaughter would ever understand.
This evening the daughter felt the strength and desire to head back over to her place and give it shot at being “home” with just her and the girls. I admire that determination and strength . . . she is a fighter. Yet, I miss my little imp standing at the door waiting . . . waiting to go explore the neighborhood with her grandpa . . . it is such a magical world filled with lots of chatter and laughter that only grandpas and granddaughters understand . . . after all, grandpas and two-year old grandchildren are pretty close in age.
I love the moment as it draws my granddaughter and I closer together . . . as it builds a foundation of trust, but more importantly love . . . as it flips the memory switch and reminds me of times when I walked with her mother, my daughter, in a similar adventure . . . as it open the world up for me to see with new eyes—two-year old eyes—to see how magical this adventure we call life really is . . . to see what a blessing it really is. And, it has reminded me of what “love” really is . . . love goes beyond words. As hard as the human race has tried to describe “love” it has never fully succeeded in putting it in terms that truly reflect what it is.
What it is . . . it is a person whispering, then proclaiming . . . if I could. If I could . . . I would do anything for the sake of my child, my grandchild . . . if I could. Yeah, I love my family in sickness and health.