The Young Ones
Our niece and nephews just left. I can hear the crunch of the driveway gravel beneath their tires, a slow lingering don’t-want-to-leave sort of crunch, and it makes me smile. To have the privilege of a front row seat at their unfolding from infancy into young adulthood is the closest I’ll come to children of my own. It was Becca’s idea and invitation to see the new Downton Abbey film as a birthday present (she and I happily share the day, a gift from her late mother and my dear friend. See previous post “For Jeannie”, April 1, 2018), an easy “yes” in my decision options that day. Then pizzas-to-go back at the house where we filled the air between us with catch-up talk, giggling, much opening of gifts, and some spontaneous rapping of the Hamilton score. Who wouldn’t drive away slowly and reluctantly from a gathering like that?
Every visit with Andrew, his husband Akira, Anthony (visiting from Chicago!) and Becca is like this, with slight changes to the agenda. Becca’s friend Corey was here too—a most welcome and joyful spirit under our roof. We spent our time together awake and grateful, fully present and moving from one laugh to another. The time passes easily and we’re all better for it. I miss their mother and feel her with us all in one. What fine people these young people have become.
When Jeannie was simplifying her life as her treatments continued, she bravely asked if we would take in Copper, the family cat, all black and in search of yet another lap to call home. Copper’s age was and still is an estimate—at least 13, but maybe 19–a sturdy feline with no intention of going anywhere anytime soon. We all gave it a trial month, and in that time, Copper Raised in the Suburb slowly transformed into Copper the Rural Mouser, and we blended our lives into a seamless respectful existence. When the children-turned-young adults come to visit, it’s a beautiful reunion to behold, as if Copper was now somehow Jeannie’s avatar (Copper does help me with my morning yoga practice, something Jeannie would certainly do if she were here). She recognizes them instantly, and the months since that last visit melt away.
I must say, I wondered how our relationships with these precious young ones would evolve after Jeannie died. It was a delicate dance that balanced respectful distance and space with gentle knocking on the doors of grief, just to see if they needed a drink or a memory spoken aloud. I felt young and child-like helpless for a time after my own mom passed, but I was twice Becca’s age when that happened. I can only imagine how I might have navigated my 30’s without my parents nearby. Becca and her brothers are walking that path every day. I would expect some days or moments are easier than others, as evidenced by the way they all carry themselves. I am grateful for the honest presentations of their hearts and remind myself that’s not just a condition of their youth. It’s an invitation to re-set my own inner posture and remove the walls that keep me too much in my own world. Yet another reason to cherish the time we spend in each other’s company.
A few minutes after their car turned onto the road, where the gravel ends and the blacktop begins, I’m pulling the trash bin to the curb and unloading a week’s worth into its thick plastic mouth. The rough cardboard edges of the pizza boxes push against the dark green plastic of the trash bag in my hand, and I smile again, the echoes of that slow and reluctant driveway gravel crunch fading in my ears.