A visit too short

My daughter and my grandson have been visiting me for the last week. They were originally going to stay for three days, but decided to make it a full week. Since my kids all live far from me I don’t get much chance to see them, and although they stay in touch there’s nothing like sitting face to face and being able to reach out and give and get hugs.

We spent the week talking about the days of their youth, being reminded of things forgotten and reliving the remembered moments. To make each other laugh so hard we can’t breathe as we revisit events and to become somber over the memories of unhappy moments. To celebrate and re-celebrate my daughter’s and my grandson’s accomplishments. This made more rich through her recent graduation as she became a biologist.

While my girl is an avid woods-person, hiking and camping all through the Cascade Mountains, she also shares my interest in drones and looks for ways to use her skills flying to make her studies of the plantlife and animals that populate her specialties. She also lobbies other scientists to look at unmanned aerial vehicles and to have their oversight press for regulations that allow their use for research, management, and the other tasks involved in gaining understanding of the ecosphere -particularly for the Pacific Northwest.

My grandson thinks I’m a genius because of all the things he’s seen that I built, be it robots, aircraft or tools. I’ll wait and let time show him that I only know what many, many people know. He talks a mile a minute about his hobbies and projects and I listen avidly as he explains ventriloquism, magic tricks, making cartoons on the computer and complains at the volume of gas the family dog, Cletus, is able to generate and appears to expel mostly in his room.

I like that he is coming to know my wife and seeing her as grandma. The distance that separates us most of the time makes it difficult to come to know each other. An extended visit fills so many gaps and strengthens their relationship. The more people a child can have in their lives that love them, the better, and I can see the interplay between them as they develop their own relationships and develop their own little secrets as they start to develop that wordless language that closeness produces.

It’s fun to sit with my grandson and let him watch as I assemble or modify some device or other, encouraging him to participate and tell me what he thinks the next move should be. Congratulating him when he’s right and explaining the function when he’s not, invariably he gets it right the next time. Our family members all have a foot in technology, some genetic deviation that seems to drive us to understand how and why things work the way they do, and give us a leg up when it comes to technical subjects. All of my children are scientists; computer hardware and software development, physical sciences like biology and engineering, and my grandson is, it would seem, following in those footsteps. I met my wife working for a technology company and so she fits right in, and I think that helps her relate to my children better than she might otherwise.

I felt a deep sadness as my little girl and her 11 year old son pulled out of the driveway to make the five or six hour drive back to her home in the hills outside of Everett. Each time I get to spend an extended period of time with my kids I feel a piece of my happiness wrenched away from me, a replay of their reaching adulthood and setting out to create their own lives in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lives I am incredibly proud of. Tonight I have been sitting quietly and going over the events of the last week, sometimes smiling at the recollection of a passed moment, then frowning as I remember the car’s taillights moving down the street on its way to the freeway.