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Intermittent Grandparent: Longing to Share

Photo of a hand holding up a fall leaf with a heart cut out in it, symbolizing a longing to share


I am officially a resident of Charleston, West Virginia. However, I spend significant portions of the year in western Montana due in large part to a 3-year-old granddaughter who is the apple of my eye. 

I have thus experienced Montana’s crisp winter snow covered days, flowers bursting after spring rains, and startlingly beautiful azure summer skies. Nevertheless, there is one season in which my Appalachian Highlands clearly excel—the fall. 

While larches turn a stunning yellow, and there is a smattering of other deciduous trees near my son’s Missoula home, there is nothing like the multicolored palate of autumnal hues you find in the Appalachians from New England to the Carolinas. 

I am writing this piece during fall, in a mountain cabin near Lost River, West Virginia. Yesterday my wife, my dog, and I ascended over 1,000 feet up the White Oak trail to Cranny Crow Overlook to be met with a vista of ridge after ridge of varying colors. Although these hills are not as grand as the Rockies, they are invitingly soft in their patchwork quilt covering this time of year. 

A thought struck me during our hike with its scenic overlooks which put a bit of a damper on the day. It dawned on me that I might never be able to share this seasonal kaleidoscope with my Montana little one. 

She will soon be tied to a school calendar, which will anchor her near home each October; and, in any event, since my Montana progeny see me often during the year, there is little incentive for them to break away and attempt to coordinate some future trip with the fickle timing of the often sporadic foliage change any given year. 

I wonder if other grandparents have been struck with this longing to share what they experience far from the children of their children. Does the Montana grandparent viewing the summer clouds passing overhead inviting a Rorschach discernment of faces and animals wonder if their eastern megalopolis grandchildren ever experience such heavenly visions? 

Do grandparents in Indiana on a summer night watching a thousand flickering lights generated by fireflies unknown to their northern California descendants long to share the experience with them? Might New England elders gazing at a gently swirling snowfall wish their Houston progeny’s offspring were able to view the same winter scene? 

Such desires flow from a longing to experience what we love with those we love. When I traveled for work and saw a rainbow or a sunset, I would often become melancholic that my spouse was not there to experience it with me. I have discovered that whatever form the object of love takes—be it a life partner or a grandchild—the void in one’s heart at such times caused by the absence of the beloved is achingly the same. MSN

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