We went to Florida over the spring break. The warmth was wonderful even though it rained most of the time we were there, but I missed Sabie, my grandson. We have seldom gone more than a day without seeing him. He calls me Lollie and his grandfather Papa. I have no idea where he came up with these names, but he wouldn’t call me Grammie as I called myself to him.

So together, his grandfather and I are “LolliePapa.” He will tell his mother, “Go to LolliePapa’s house and ride tractor.”

When his mother drives into the yard, from inside the house we can hear him squealing. He is belly laughing for his Lollie and Papa. If we don’t meet him at the car, he calls us the minute he is inside. He looked for us the entire time we were in Florida. His mom came to our house every day to feed the animals, but Lollie and Papa weren’t home. He didn’t understand. It was heartbreaking to hear how he called for his Lollie and his Papa, and cried when they weren’t around.

Nessa came to the airport to pick us up and brought Sabie with her. When he saw us, he began to belly laugh and cry all at the same time and then hung onto us. In the car, he told his Mama, “Lollie lost. Papa lost.”

Wanting to share

It will be awhile before we leave that darling boy again. The whole thing moved me to tears. It was the kind of story I couldn’t wait to tell my mother, the kind of thing where she would have known instantly how I felt. I wanted dreadfully to tell her now.

I can’t get used to not having my mother. I took care of her for so many years, I thought I would feel relieved of that burden when she died, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even while she lay in bed and I tended to her needs, she listened to me as only a mother can listen to her child. I had never been without her to talk to, so I didn’t know how much I would lose when she was gone.

Now, in hindsight, I’m a lot wiser. I wish that I could go back over the last months of her life and do things differently. Somehow, even though we almost lost her last spring, I refused to believe how fragile she was.

Once she recovered from that setback, I returned to treating her as if she would always be here. She never told me how much pain she was in. I found out only after she died that the doctor had increased her pain medication.

If I had known that, I probably would have stopped in to have lunch with her on that Friday morning as was my custom. But that Friday was a busy day for me, and I was sure Mama wouldn’t mind if I waited until tomorrow. That night as I read a chapter from my new book to a gathering of people, she slipped from this life surrounded by strangers.

She couldn’t wait for tomorrow. I do wish I had had the chance to say goodbye to her, to tell her how much I love her.

Cherishing the moments

Obviously I can’t change the past, but what I can do is make sure I pay attention to the people who are in my life now. The happenings of the last few months, and especially our trip to Florida, have made me so aware of how important family is. Not many people get to see their grandchildren every day, so I know how lucky I am. Both my children are within an hour’s driving distance, and I cherish that. I hope I never take their presence for granted, but I probably will. It would be insane to think of each goodbye as the last, but sometimes I do just that. Every moment is precious.

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone to make the day special for Mom. But don’t just take her to dinner and bring her flowers. What she probably wants more than anything is just to have you talk to her, to have you care what she thinks and what she has to say.

Mothers will always be mothers, so sometimes they want to tell us what to do, tell us things we don’t want to hear. I used to resent that, but now I’m doing the same thing to my daughter. She will probably do the same to her son.

As a mother myself, I don’t want anything special for Mother’s Day, just the company of my family. I could care less about flowers or gifts or candy. My family is all I need.

Jeanette Baldridge is a writer and teacher who lives in West Paris, who is a regular contributor to this column. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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