Nearly a week has passed since I wrote the first draft of this post. Today, the feelings are just as strong.
The Overland train is swaying along the tracks that lead away from Melbourne. This morning we said our last, reluctant goodbyes and hopped the train at the Southern Cross Station. Around 4 p.m., we’ll pull into Murray Bridge, where David and Jeannette, Robin’s twin and his wife, will meet us and drive us to their beach-side unit in Port Elliot.
We travel with a mix of anticipation and sadness. That funny tingling that precedes tears is making my sight a bit fuzzy at the moment. I opened the photo app on my iPad and couldn’t resist watching a short video of 4-year-old Lily singing the ABC song and another of 8-month-old Sunday happily kicking balloons. Seeing those beautiful little faces smacked me with the reality I’d been trying to avoid: The next time we’ll be with these munchkins they’ll be several years older than they are now.
We’ll see them via Internet, of course, but no amount of Skype or Facetime can compete with the pleasure of sitting with Lily on one side, Oscar on the other, while they take turns playing some of the children’s apps I downloaded to share with them. It can’t compare with Robin’s pleasure in watching them change over the four months of his stay. The distance between Australia and Canada makes the video jumpy when we connect via Internet so telling them a story won’t work the way it does when Lily and Oscar are tucked into their beds, bodies relaxing, the story playing out in their eyes.
We won’t be able to walk into a room and see 8-month-old Sunday’s beaming face. She won’t be sucking on the glasses that hang on a string around my neck while I hold her soft little body in my arms. We won’t be around to watch the next stages as she learns to crawl, take her first steps, and try out new words.
I’ve learned a lot in these weeks of living with small children. I already knew they don’t arrive in the world with owner’s manuals. And, of course, no one really owns them anyway since the personalities they are born with affect how they are parented. But in the weeks of watching four young adults interact with their offspring, I have been impressed by how beautifully they are guiding the children and how skillfully they are navigating around any bumps. Their love gives the three children the safe cocoons from which they will unfold like butterflies.
It speaks well of Robin that after living with his son’s family since late November, they’re all still on loving terms. And it speaks well of his children and their partners that I feel like part of the family. Robin’s son and daughter and their partners are generous souls. They opened their homes and hearts to us in a way that made the farewells hard.
So today, much as we’re looking forward to the adventures ahead, we have sore spots on our spirits, empty places only these two special families will ever fill.