A quiet house

I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I didn’t stub my toe on the step stool. For the past month, I have had to remember that there is a good chance that there is a step stool in front of the sink in the bathroom. A little one needed it to be able to reach the sink to wash his hands. He was a good age to teach about washing hands because he loves to play in the water. The hand towel often ended up quite damp and wasn’t hanging on the ring where it normally lives, but wadded up on the surface of the counter. But this morning, everything is in place in the bathroom and the stool is in the corner where even in the dark, I won’t hit it with my bare foot.

The pantry shelves, however, are not back to their “usual.” The bottom shelf has a toy truck, a little people airplane, and a basket of miscellaneous toys. The next shelf up has plastic bowls and baskets that can be played with without being broken. The top shelves are crammed with things that normally are spread out on the lower shelves. There are more canisters and containers on high shelves in other places in the kitchen.

Both leaves are still in our dining room table, but the chair with the booster seat strapped to it sits alongside the wall, not at the head of the table where it has been for the past month.

In the living room a Strider Bike sits waiting to be packed in its box to be shipped to South Carolina. A bin of teddy bears sits between our recliners.

All afternoon and into the evening last night our house was quiet - too quiet.

Saying good bye at the airport was hard. Our grandson was over stimulated by all of the people, noise and activity at the airport. Our daughter was struggling with a stroller, car seat, diaper bag, back pack and an active child in her arms. The line for the security screening was backed up with other travelers. We did our best.

It wasn’t the hardest farewell of our lives. Putting her on the plane to New Jersey to go work as a nanny when she was in her early twenties was harder. Saying good bye at the airport when she went off to live in England was done with less confidence.

The thing that made it so possible to say good bye at the airport yesterday was knowing deep down how eagerly her husband was waiting for his wife and son to be with him. He had gone ahead to arrange their housing and prepare for their arrival. Moving from Japan to South Carolina is more than a big trip. It is a thousand and more details that have to be worked out. As it is, they are in temporary housing with their furniture in storage or transit. It will be a couple of weeks before they can close on their new house and begin settling in. Life in temporary housing won’t be perfect. But they will be together as a family as it should be.

We have it easy compared to our ancestors of centuries ago who said good bye to their children who boarded ships and crossed oceans and were never again face to face with the families of their origin. We’ve experienced our daughter living on three different continents since she moved out of our home. We live in a very mobile society. And we know that we can stay close and remain connected even though we are separated by thousands of miles. We’ve driven most of the roads between here and there. Her brother lived in North Carolina for two years when he was in graduate school. We managed to make a couple of trips to visit him. He was married there and we all gathered for the celebration. The year we moved to South Dakota, I was on a team planning a national youth event that took place the following year at the University of South Carolina, about 30 miles from our daughter’s new home. I’ve commented to several friends, “Hey, she may be about as far away as you can get in the continental US, but at least she’s on the same continent. You can drive to where she is moving.”

They were able to get a direct flight from Seattle to Charleston and we could get the same flight to visit them some time. And we have already had a video chat with them and got to see our grandson reunited with his father and with his dog. He may not understand all of the disruptions of his life in the past couple of months, but he knows that his family is together again and that is good.

Still, our house doesn’t feel quite the same.

The good news is that our other three grandchildren are close by. We can “borrow” them any time our house feels a bit too quiet. There is a small table in our garage where our 10-year-old grandson and I make model airplanes together. There is a room upstairs with a big doll house that our granddaughters like to fill with toys and stories. And my boats and projects and tools live in the barn at their place, so I go there on a regular basis.

Yesterday after going to the airport, we took a nap and watched church on the computer. Virtual church means we can watch on our schedule so we had church in the middle of the afternoon instead of the usual morning time. After church, we went for a walk. As we walked we paused for a brief conversation with another couple of elders who were walking on the same path. We asked each other if we lived close to the path and learned that they live in a nearby “over 55” community.

There is no attraction to an “over 55” community for me. I want to kick the soccer ball with my grandkids in the front yard. I want to watch the teenagers who live across the street. I want to see the young couple pushing their kids in their stroller down the sidewalk. I can put up with occasional noise from neighbors for the feeling of a place where all ages live together.

I’ll get used to it, but right now our house is just a little bit too quiet for my taste.

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