It's hard to say bye, easy to say 'I love you'

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Some things get easier to say with age. "I love you," for example, and "I am sorry."

I've gotten pretty good at saying those things. Also, "Have you seen my glasses?" and "Can you speak a bit louder?"

But I'm still not much good at saying goodbye. I try, but the words get stuck in my throat and I end up spitting them out like a mouthful of Listerine.

Is there ever a good way to say goodbye?

The trip to California was short but sweet, just a few days in Monterey to see my children and grandchildren and celebrate my grandson's birthday.

Randy turned 2, as he will gladly tell you ("I 2!") and show you by holding up five fingers. His swim party was a roaring success. I didn't even have to get wet, as pool duty was covered by his mom and his dad and his other grandma, Saint Ro Ro.

I slept at Randy's house (so he could knock on my door at 6 a.m. and beg me to come blow bubbles), but I also hung out with Henry, Randy's cousin, my grandson, who is almost 1.

Henry likes me to sit on the floor while he crawls around looking for things he shouldn't put in his mouth. He especially likes it if I throw a blanket over my head. I try not to take it personally. Sooner or later he rips the blanket off and laughs when he sees me. I laugh, too. We do it over and over and it just keeps getting funnier.

I could blow bubbles with Randy and wear a blanket for Henry forever. But the next time I see them -- soon, but not soon enough -- those two little boys will be a little less little. Bubbles and blankets will soon be replaced by much bigger things.

Children don't wait for you to spend time with them. They grow up, with or without you.

If I'm not around, how will they know that I love them?

I thought of that as I tried to tell them goodbye. "Your nana loves you," I said. "She has to go away, but she'll come back."

Randy made a sad face, the kind he makes when he doesn't want to go to bed. Henry smiled a smile that in years to come will get him out of a lot of trouble. I wish you could've seen them.

The flight to Las Vegas took about an hour. My husband was working, so I caught a cab for the 20-minute ride home.

The driver, a pleasant, well-dressed man in his 40s, said it had been stormy in Vegas, lots of thunder and lightning.

"It scares my horses," he said.

Horses? I shut off my phone.

He told me all about his mare and her colt. The colt, he said, laughing, "thinks I'm his dad!"

He spoke with pride about his three children, especially the youngest, a 5-year-old boy.

"He loves the horses. He wants to ride all the time!"

I watched his eyes in the rearview mirror, how they lit up as he described for me his boy riding bareback on the mare.

Then the light grew dim.

"My wife," he said, "she died of breast cancer. She had such a big heart. She helped everyone."

After her death, he said, the mare suddenly became fiercely protective of the boy.

"She follows him around," he said. "She kneels down to let him climb on her back. She won't let the dog get near him!"

Sometimes, he said, he thinks his wife is still watching over the boy through that horse.

He looked at me in the mirror, gauging my reaction. I nodded.

"Love never ends," I said. "It will find a way by any means necessary -- even a horse."

We both laughed at that.

He pulled into my driveway and I started to get out. Then I stopped. This was one goodbye I wanted to try to get right.

"You know," I said, "I lost my first husband to cancer, too. My children were older than yours. They're grown now, and I have grandchildren. But we still feel his love every day. Your children will know they are loved."

He smiled his thanks. I waved goodbye. Then I went inside to write his children's names in a place I won't forget them.

lifestyle - intelligencer

Sharon Randall is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service (www.sharonrandall.com).


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