Last week at the ranch I was close to my father in spirit. I came ever nearer to understanding why he used to sit quietly and contentedly amid the hubbub of my family ; asking nothing, watching everything and missing the fine points due to his impaired hearing. I know now that he was truly happy at those times.
It is a new phase in parenting that you can’t yet understand; the fullness of joy in my heart when I am with you all* without the necessity to be a part of every little thing.
It isn’t the bottomless pit of wanting to hear every word that your children say because you have been separated from them while they are at school or abroad. That is where you are now, and I remember and understand it.
It isn’t the pleasure of close conversation or insight into the triumphs and challenges of your daily lives. I have the privilege of these rare times with both my children and grandchildren.
It isn’t even a niggling anxiety to be included…to be a contender in the jockeying of position to spend precious moments hearing your deepest desires.
Instead, it is the overarching glow of happiness that comes from knowing who you are as individuals in this rambunctious group and my pleasure in the group itself. It is the joy I feel when you enjoy each other. It is the rapture of watching your hearts expand once again to make room for each other in the design of your lives.
As children you were a pack. You were close in age and proximity. For all of the childish quarrels and competitions, you were a unit composed of individuals whose lives revolved around one another. Every parent knows the warm feeling that comes when one’s children are peacefully at play. At will I can call forth the cozy vision of close family ties that held you within the circle of my love and protection.
There are more of us now in the circle. And we all live separate lives. Our times together are rare and to be treasured.
And the roar of laughter is music to my ears even though I haven’t heard the joke (or don’t understand it). When the spirit of goodwill and understanding permeates the atmosphere, I feel complete. Sitting around the table or the campfire and seeing you deeply involved in conversation with each other makes me smile with you.
Watching the pushing and shoving and roughhousing of the young people is like watching my favorite movie. I love the knowing grins, the arms circling shoulders, the tramping off through the woods together. Smiles for photo ops provide me with mental pictures that I can take home and replay to my heart’s content.
And I am content. I am like my father, parked to the side, sometimes ignored, sometimes drawn in, always happy be in your presence; the buffer between you and mortality as long as it can last.
*Missing the two of you who couldn’t be there with us.