“How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown.”
   — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Today marks the first day of summer.  The season has changed once again, and we all know it.  The calendar has warned us, the sun has hung around in the evening sky until long past his usual bedtime, and the schools have closed their doors and returned the sounds of children at play to the world outside.  The Earth’s seasons are predictable – reliable.  I have learned these seasons well as I have watched them pass for more than six decades.  They are dependable.   No matter how much I might long for summer on a cold winter’s night, there is nothing I can do to alter the inevitable rhythm of the universe.  There is something comforting and familiar in the cycles and seasons – something that wraps its arms around us and reassures us that all is well.

The seasons of the heart are less predictable;  and my own climate change has had me silent lately, as I listen for the call toward the unknown that inevitably follows endings.  The silence between seasons is as unavoidable as the change itself; and it has taken some self-discipline, some self-restraint, and some self-exploration to allow the quiet to descend and stay long enough to feel familiar and friendly to my waiting heart.  As the silence begins to stir and the sounds of the world around me once again begin to reach my ears, they have reminded me that there is no escaping the transitions of our lives.  We must say goodbye before we can move on and say hello.  For some reason, this is the part that I always try to avoid; but in my seasoned heart, I know I will have to embrace the sad and wistful goodbyes before my heart can be ready to fully embrace what lies ahead.

Last night, my sweetheart and I made our weekly shopping trip to several stores for groceries and household supplies.  In the midst of our stops, we decided to pop in at our favorite buffet restaurant for a bite to eat.  It was a busy evening; and when we finally were seated, our table was next to one with an extended family of grandparents, parents the age of our own children, and little ones from about 2 to 7 years old – five of them.  As we sat there at our adults-only table, I felt a sudden sense of freedom.  There were no extra plates to fill at the buffet, no food to cut into bite-size morsels, no complaints that there was nothing good to eat – only a peaceful dinner with polite conversation and time to spare.

At the next table, there was air to be blown through straws from brother to sister, small bodies to be placed again and again in their seats, and reminders that some real food would have to be consumed before there would be any hope of ice cream.  Then it happened.  A small hand misplaced a water glass on the table, and the tide came in.  It washed over napkins and plates and bowls and forks.  It landed in a couple of laps and it sent the waitress scurrying for a stack of napkins.  My sweetheart and I made eye contact and smiled knowingly.  We always had said, with our own brood, that no dinner was complete until someone’s beverage tipped and soaked the whole table.  We returned to our orderly meal, knowing that the chances were slim that it would be washed away in a spill.

One of the young dads came walking by with his son.  “I’m taking him to the bathroom,” he called to his wife.  They were barely out of sight when the next little boy cried out, “I have to pee, too!!!” and I thought of the way that needing the bathroom is always contagious where small boys are concerned.  As his mother left her lukewarm food to take him, I heard her mutter, “Have kids, they said…it’ll be fun, they said…”  Suddenly, I could not swallow.  Tears welled up in my eyes, taking me completely by surprise.  ‘Have kids, they said…it’ll be fun, they said…’

I wanted to follow her and tell her they were right, whoever “they” might be, the ones who said it would be fun.  They were right.  I wanted to tell her not to miss a single moment of the fun that drives us crazy.  Not to miss a single chance to take that kid who really doesn’t have to go to the bathroom his brother is getting to explore.  I wanted to tell her not to miss how tenderly her 7-year-old daughter was talking to her littlest brother.  I wanted to tell her to carefully catalog the memories being made before her eyes and to commit them to her heart for later retrieval.

Instead, I looked up at the man who has shared our family-building adventure for all these years.  I raised my hand, looked into his eyes, and snapped my fingers.  “Yes,” he replied, “in an instant.”

As we finished our dinner — and the food was all hot, and there were no tidal waves, and nobody had to go to the bathroom right now — I was careful to hold onto my napkin, just in case anything spilled from the corner of my mouth or the corners of my eyes.  As I heard the cacophony of dinner out with the children fade into the recesses of the past, I heard my heart speak a tearful goodbye to the sometimes-frustrated young mother I used to be.  I realized that when the challenge is done, all that remains is the love.

“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and in reach of every hand.”
— Mother Teresa

Goodbye, mom.  Hello, grandma.  This is going to be fun.

But I still wonder what else a grandma might do.