The value of time

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

My children were young when my mother died – 10 and 6 years old. Gran, as they called her, lived in West Tennessee, 283 miles from our door to hers. She died at the age I will be in two months.

Gran was, to put it mildly, an “involved” grandmother. She wanted to know every aspect of the children’s lives, and, because I was her daughter and therefore duty-bound to listen to her, she was also convinced she was actively helping raise them from 283 miles away.

What she coveted most from me was the thing it was hardest to give: time.

My mother was a wise woman, and she knew what a gift it was when we came to Lexington, Tenn. She traveled here, too, and she slipped into our lives with ease. Neville never seemed to mind having his mother-in-law underfoot for a week or 10 days. (Having dinner waiting on the table when we both got home from work may have had something to do with that!)

Still, as the children moved from babies to toddlers to school-age kids, giving that gift of time got harder. It wasn’t that we didn’t WANT to visit. It was just that all the “things” we did filled those precious weekends and ate up those few vacations days so rapidly.

I learned the value of the gift of time from my mother before I ever became a parent. My father died when my brother and I were small children. Every single year after he died, and she moved us to her hometown, she gave that gift to my paternal grandparents. She found a way, by hook or crook, to get us 700 miles from home to Angier, N.C., every summer to visit our Carolina grandparents and family for anywhere from two to six weeks.

Sometimes karma can be a blessing. My children – the two boys and my two daughters-in-law – are more than generous with their gifts of time, and to say that Granddaddy and Gigi “appreciate” it is a massive understatement. Time with them and the three grandsons keeps us going. Memories are made; love is multiplied.

I had everyone here for a few days last week and the Seattle crew, who have so far to travel, for the whole week. Every single day I thought my heart would burst with joy. I did precious little except play with my grandchildren. Cuddling on the couch with King and Gardner, discussing school and the best shoes with Cohen and just having my adult children and their wonderful spouses all in the same house was a joyous, fill-up-my soul blessing.

My mother never failed to thank me for any time she got with us and with the boys. At the time, I thought that was odd. We would spend a week at her house, eat her wonderful homemade food and have complete freedom as she was an always-ready babysitter. As we left, she would pack us up with leftovers to last another two or three days, and she would thank me.

“For what?” I would always ask. “We love being here.”

“For time,” she would say. “Someday you will know what I mean.”

And I do, Mom. I do.


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