Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sweet Home Virginia

I've been away from the blog for two days, but it feels like it's been forever.

As I've been mentioning all too often, life has gotten tough lately, trying to juggle three babies 24/7, but add to that illness and death in the family, and I suppose I really can't be too hard on myself for not staying in the game throughout.

I had every intention of posting last night, but half a day's travel yesterday on top of everything mentioned above really took the wind out of me. Once I laid myself down on a hotel bed, and got Mia snoring peacefully by my side, I could not be moved. And thus ended the first day of Mia's first trip outside of the DC/Metro area (to Pittsburgh, PA).

It was also her first long car ride. She did really, really well in the beginning, sleeping straight through from 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm, but the next leg was tortuous. As we've been discovering on the way back, it seems that a lot of her complaint was likely due to the high elevations from that point forward, and her inability to pop her own ears. Since I can't nurse her in a moving car, and she won't take a pacifier, there was little that we could do for her. We did make a good effort, offering fingers, songs, and gentle stroking of her face and hair.

I knew that all of the difficulty was worth it, however, when I saw my grandmother and Mia meet for the first time this morning. Grandma found a reason to smile through her grief, and together we had a quiet moment to reflect on the beauty and wonderment of new life, even in the midst of such a sad ending. Part of me felt heartsick that I was not able to have the rest of my family with me as well (Tom and I decided it would be best for everyone involved if he stayed behind with Abby and Michael), but at the same time it seemed fitting that it should just be Mia this time around. Though she will never know my grandfather, nor will she ever even be able to claim having met him, she will have been the one great-grandchild in attendance at his final goodbye.

And a beautiful goodbye it was. A lovely Mass, in which my father delivered a eulogy with contributing words from his brother and himself, and my sister and I learned some amazing new things about the man we knew as Grandpa. He had participated in a Top Secret Project at the tail end of WWII, which was later revealed to be work on the development of sonar. Later in his life, he created a search code that helped enable NASA to get a man to the moon. Pretty noteworthy stuff.

Though WWII ended before my grandfather was ever called to combat, he was in active duty in the Navy during wartime, and reached the rank of Ensign before his honorable discharge. As a result, he was given full honors upon his death. His casket was draped with an American flag after it was carried from the church, and two uniformed seamen waited in the lobby to salute it while Taps was played. This gesture was followed by a careful folding of the flag, and its presentation, with thanks for valued service, to my grandmother. It was incredibly moving.

So, too, was the brief but treasured time spent with too-rarely-seen relatives at the luncheon afterwards. My aunt, uncle, first cousins. We focused not on what we had all just lost, but rather, what knowledge of each others' lives we had to gain, catching up on upcoming life changes, and exchanging personal stories. When Mia awoke from a catnap, I brought her by my grandmother's end of the table for a last bit of time with her. I never did get a chance to take a picture of them together, but I will store away forever the memory of my grandmother's face as she looked into my youngest daughter's. 

Now, as I reflect on recent events, and enjoy my last bits of time in the (relative) calm and quiet that have come from temporarily taking on the role of mom-of-one, I'm realizing just how much I miss the rest of my brood. Abby, with her quirky sense of humor; contagious laugh; and budding attitude, Michael, with his boundless energy; nose for trouble; and radiant smile. I'm counting on the depletion of my final stores of energy as I cross through the front door to stop me from bounding up to their rooms to watch them sleep (they'll likely be in bed before I get home), but I hope to find comfort in the very nearness of them, and the knowledge that I will see their cherished faces before me again at the rising of the sun.

With a worn-out baby in hand and a blog post already neatly under my belt (mobile hotspot + laptop + more than enough adults to go around to handle the driving, for the win), I am eager to be home now, in the company of my dear husband, in the comfort of my very own bed.

Sweet Virginia, here we come.