Written by Assunta Maria Vickers
Nineteen flight-hours away from my Southern California life, Sweden is cold, wet, dark, and bleak. Frost on my breath fogs my glasses. It’s late, close to midnight at landing. Wearily recalling the route, I concentrate to ensure the cabbie is driving the right way.
I saved up a long time on my disability income to make this December trip across the Atlantic happen alone. It has not been easy to get the resources to make it happen a second year in a row.
At a Legacy Grandparenting church seminar, I learned how much our grandchildren need us regularly in their lives, even if their parents say, “No Jesus-talk to our children!” Encouraged by hearing that barriers like distance, strained relationships, and finances could be overcome, I am taking a leap of faith. I am in uncharted territory, but with fervent hope for help from heaven above.
Arriving at their complex 45 minutes away, all the doors seem to look different, and my entry code isn’t working. Anxiety begins to fill my chest and a hint of disorientation flickers through my brain. I believe this is right where I visited them last time, but could this be right? My phone battery is now dead; I look around in the darkness, nervous, wondering what to do next, and begin to pray.
Sudden relief washes over me as my daughter appears on the other side of the thick outer glass door. Yes! I am in the right place! She had missed my earlier text from the airport and said, “Sorry Mom, I should have mentioned that they replaced our doors this fall.”
Up the elevator to her fourth-floor flat. I try to muffle my entry sounds while unbundling so as not to awaken the littles at one in the morning. But then – a wonderful surprise! My first Grand-love appears in the hall, sleepy eyes, arms open reaching up.
“GRANDMA!”, he whispers intensely during my lift of his precious four-and-a-half years, up into our long embrace. No other sounds but our beating hearts for a glorious moment. As I put him gently down, he says, “You smell yummy”, turns, and goes straight back to bed, my sleepy angel.
I “smell yummy”! This is where my heart is. I’m right where God says I belong. All the facetime calls we can share are surely a blessing, but cannot compare to fully embracing my precious grandbabies. Thank you, Jesus!
My sleeping place is his bottom bunk. It’s all ready for me, cozy and welcoming. I snuggle in; visions stream of the coming joy-filled morning. It’ll come much sooner than my jet lag and retirement sleep schedule are accustomed to. It’ll come with my second Grand-love, all one and a half years’ worth of her wiggly snuggles, climbing in beside me under the down comforter, with a book. It’ll come with delicious warm porridge made by their mama, with opportunities to love and show my appreciation for her. Of course, toys, imagination, and excitement galore with my tiny, beautiful grand-loves. And a chance to just be Grandma, reflecting my Savior’s warm loving light in a dark wintery place.
All this, for three glorious weeks this time, is my faraway home.
Well, as with all things, this too must pass. This visiting grandma must say goodbye and leave my Swedish faraway home, heading West, across that big Atlantic Ocean to my regular home. That is the hardest part, kissing them goodbye, knowing that tomorrow is not promised. It’s an unspeakable pain in that taxi ride to a departing airport outside the city of Gothenburg.
Flashes of treasured moments mix with flashes of knowing how much more I want to impart to my baby grands. Yet so much communication is lost when, for the foreseeable future, our interactions are going to be on just a screen!
The little one was almost four when she began hugging the phone on her end of the Facetime call. I had no idea, at first, why the screen on my end went dark and silent except for some groanings and rustling of pajamas against the microphone! Her mama helped me understand, “She is hugging you, Grandma”. Oh! The gut-wrenching ache that shuddered through to my very soul when I realized it and tried with all my might to hug her back. Through the iPhone screen, even now over a year later, it has become a thing we do.
My grandson likes to “take Grandma” for a walking tour of his room or to see his latest Lego creation. That he is halfway across the world seems not to phase him! I go with his flow. He has learned how to position his mother’s smartphone in such a way as to maximize my view of his masterpieces. We have even raced rubber band flip cars across the floor showing each other our skills while playing.
Yes, PLAYING! Across the world, while on the floor, despite my painful knees and difficulty getting back up.
When I think about how difficult it must have been even just 40 years ago, for grandparents living on different continents than their grandchildren, I realize that I am exceedingly blessed. In 1980 if there was money in a household budget for a phone call, it was limited to a few very expensive minutes, and it was voice only. I don’t think my sad heart, lonely for them, would have survived.
I cannot deny it. There has been a huge learning curve in progress as I struggle to keep up with the ever-expanding technology my adult children are using. But it’s worth it, to get that screen hug, and to have my grandson show me what he has built along with watching how their skills on a bicycle or throwing a yo-yo are improving.
My praises and prayers are filled with thanksgiving, for mercifully helping me to remain connected to them. Despite enormous geographic barriers along with the time differences involved, I read them bedtime stories, listen to the highs and lows of their days, show them my garden harvest, and sing together a lot of songs.
When my grandson broke his arm a while back, he wanted his grandma and face-timed me from the hospital. In being able to remain connected this way, I know what to pray about. Thank you, Jesus, that I can almost touch my darlings, almost anytime I or they want or need to.
I am grateful for this screen time because even then, it’s the next best thing to being there in my faraway home.