Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Gift that Can't be Wrapped

My Christmas gift from the Mister this year didn't come in a shape or form that could be plunked into a box and wrapped up with a bow.

Instead, he gifted me with the ability to say good-bye to a very important part of my life, in for form of two weeks of vacation time off from work, and sandwiched between two- 24 hour car rides with five kids and a papillon.
Which probably sounds like he wrapped up Hell and slapped a bow on it.

But it wasn't. Not by a long shot.

My grandparents built a home on Sanibel Island, Florida (off of Ft. Myers, in the Gulf) right around the time I was born.

When I was going up, every family winter vacation took us to Sanibel. I have so many memories of my grandparents (now elderly), my father (now deceased), and my childhood, in the house.

Yet, my grandparents are aging and no longer able to travel to Sanibel. The house and island are pricey, so it's no longer practical to keep the house.

My folks went down there for the month of November to work on the house-- paint, repair, pack.

Basically, they have the terribly difficult and bittersweet job of dismantling a world.

My mother begged us to come down, to give them a reprieve from the weeks of sadness. For the Mister (and boys) to help Boppa with some of the heavy lifting jobs that he couldn't do on his own (carpet removal, anyone?)

So, halfway through November, we packed it up and headed South.

Being there this year, without my grandparents' presence, was terrible in and of itself. It was not the same, and something was just very much missing.

But that hurt was covered by the joy I felt in watching my children swimming in the pool, playing on the family room floor, running down the beach.
Watching my parents and my aunt and uncle watch my children, seeing how much they loved all the crazy life my kids breathed into that place, was wondrous. "It is soooo good to see the house be used the way it was intended to be used," my aunt commented on Thanksgiving night, watching the kids take a post-Turkey swim.

I spent a huge part of my time on Sanibel one breath away from choking up with tears---seeing the beach for the last time, being in the house for the last time, driving away for the last time.

But it was worth it.

So thank you, Mister, for "forcing" me to agree to this trip. It was priceless.

And as bittersweet it was to leave, what a gift my grandparents gave all of us--over three decades of family memories.


geralyn said...

Sarah, your post just about made me cry. My grandmother lived in Bonita Springs just South of Ft. Myers and just north of Naples. We went there twice a year throughout my childhood and I learned to tread water in the waters of Sanibel Island. One of my greatest memories was watching the Manatees swimming in the canal behind my grandmother's house and of her picking oranges off the tree in the morning and having warm orange juice...straight from the tree.

So glad you went. Goodbyes to ends of stories are always so hard. I'm glad you got to weave all of your kids into the story of your grandparent's house. Treasure the memories.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sarah, for being a wonderful wife and mother to our children. That is the greatest gift I've ever received. :)

-Mr. Grateful