I’m writing this from my parent’s home in Virginia…the house where I grew up, so many thousands of miles from where I now call home. In the past week I’ve also spent time in Austin for a business convention and New Orleans to visit my stepdaughter and her family. I am glad I could work in a visit to my folks while I’m on the mainland…throughout it all, if you’ve read my past posts about traveling this summer, is the constant thought of where I may end up in this wide, wide world. Truly I don’t know, but I am viewing every city with renewed interest and fervent curiosity as I seriously consider the possibility that sometime in the next few years I might take that leap back to the mainland, at least for a while. There is just so much out here to see and experience. Sometimes I really feel like I’m missing out, though I know I’m so lucky to live in Hawaii for so many reasons.
Mike is still in every moment…My parent’s backyard here will always bring back the memory of the time he taught our niece and nephew to shoot a bow and arrow those years ago. We bought melons today and I had to comment how he would never eat melon. Big memories, small moments…they’re all still in here.
My parents’ house seems quiet, without him, without my brother’s family this visit; without the dogs and cats that also spent their lives, well-loved in this lovely place.
I told stories about Mike to my friends in Austin – well, I re-told a few of the stories he loved telling too, to a similarly stunned and entertained audience. He sure could tell a good story. I quite enjoyed doing that and felt perhaps a bit like he used to, capturing the imagination and creating laughter and amazement. Some of his life stories seem like science fiction…we’ll maybe never really know the whole truth, but they sure do entertain, and in the re-telling, his energy and presence seem so close.
And yet so far.
I had only two days in New Orleans with my stepdaughter but it was jam-packed with play time, great meals and conversation, and a little sight-seeing. I’d never been there before. They are there due to my son-in-law’s job; they still have their house in California but will be in NO for as long as that job keeps him there. So, I got to see the French Quarter, Bourbon street, had coffee and beignets at Café Du Monde, great seafood and drinks, a hurricane at Pat O’Briens…but the best part was just being with them. My little grandson is recently turned four, and man is he adorable. The first time I finally was in the same room with the happy little chatterbox this trip my heart melted and my eyes filled with tears…Mike was SO excited when we found out he was on the way; he met him when he was a baby, thank goodness, but would never see him like this. I hadn’t seen him since the funeral when he was only 1 ½, and he is now a real little boy.
My little granddaughter is just two now, and she is a beautiful, energetic and sassy girly girl who is sure to grow into quite a lovely young lady one day. My stepdaughter was pregnant with her when Mike died. He knew she was going to be a girl and had started talking about favorite names, but never met her. It is heartbreaking.
But I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it felt to hear them call me “Tutu” (Hawaiian for grandmother, the title we agreed on long ago), and feel their little hands pull me towards the desired toy and game.
My stepdaughter is so easy to be around, as is her husband, and the kids are (really, they are) fun to be with. I am so incredibly glad I was able to visit with them. The kids grow up so fast…and guess what? There is another one on the way. We are excited, yet in the background is that constant hum of grief and missing him and what he is missing out on. It sucks…but I am determined to stay close. They are my family, both of my beautiful stepdaughters, and always will be…I cannot even begin to explain how grateful I am for them all.
We share not just a love for each other, but the real Knowing of Mike Vendrell. How he was; what he was really like, his stories, our shared memories; and our shared grief of that huge missing piece in all our lives. That will keep us joined in memory and in spirit to each other, and to Mike himself.