Sunday, September 22, 2013

So here we are... no, really - we are here!

So there we were on our way to Philadelphia to surprise the girls. Oh yes, I said surprise. Turns out that YK, who is six years younger than her sister, asked to spend the weekend with OK and The Boy to celebrate OK's birthday. This threw me off for two reasons: YK was willing to leave her newfound Happy Place (college) for the weekend, and The LC (Love Couple - yes, I need to add this to my sort of legend) was willing to drive almost three hours to get her. That fact really tickled me.

Like my girls I have one sibling, my big sister who is nine years older than me. We are blessedly close in adulthood though our lives still rarely parallel. Her two daughters are married and the closest in age to OK is ten years older. My sister is a grandmother of three (and an awesome one at that) while I am in the midst of watching my oldest just begin her wedding plans. We were bonded by our love of music but other than that, there wasn't much for us connect with as kids. Come to think of it, we weren't really kids at the same time.

At six years apart in age (seven in school due to birth dates) that same fate could have fallen on my girls, but somehow they drew closer once OK went off to college (and YK had to deal with us on a daily basis alone). It is also to YK's advantage that The Boy thinks of her already as his little sister but not in an annoying little sister way. When the three of them are together they are a veritable trio of sarcasm and silliness, and they are immense fun to be around.

I miss them.

It had been a month since we deposited YK at The School and visited the OK and The Boy before heading home to our newly empty nest. I have been trying to be good about limiting my texts and calls and letting her voluntarily tell us about how things are going. No - that's not true. I ask her often how things are going. However, I am now accustomed to her reply being "good" and don't push (much) for more as long as I don't detect distress in her voice.

Showing up unannounced was my brainchild. The Boy alone was aware and worked extensively with me to set up the perfect rendezvous for us to suddenly appear - which, by the way, changed several times in the last 24 hours. Before arriving I even had to coach S on "mom text" as I drove and he replied to a message from one of the girls. Make sure you put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence, I said. And write 'I love you' with an exclamation point.

The average kid may not notice the subtle difference in texts. Mine probably would, and then the phone would ring and then we would have to explain where we are driving to. It was like a movie plot. I kind of enjoyed it.

By now you must be wondering - what was the final outcome? Exuberant hugs? Annoyed eye rolls?

A couple of people were careful not to express their doubts as to this type of trickery. My boss, however, was obvious about her misgivings when she thought I was talking about walking onto YK's college campus and yelling, "Surprise!" Trust me, I am not so foolish or naive to think she would even remotely enjoy that kind of bombshell. Even this scheme was slightly nerve-wracking. I had full confidence OK would be very excited to see us but was not sure if it was too soon for YK. However, once she realized we came bearing warmer clothing for fall weather and the enticement of a stop at Wal-Mart for supplies if she agreed to let us to drive her back to campus, I was pretty sure she would come around.

Planning a sneak attack of sorts can be quite intricate. The more people involved the more likely it is that someone will say something to ruin the element of surprise. And so it was with this past week as we narrowed down the best way to blow the minds of OK and YK. In the end we detoured from the main city to the King of Prussia Mall, a city in itself where YK had been set free and was probably hoping to find a quiet corner in which to camp and live happily ever after. Thanks to The Boy, who had been spending an inordinate amount of time under the guise of calling his mother and needing the restroom, we managed to slip up behind them in a store while he distracted them.

I am ecstatic to report that it was hugs all around and they continued the rest of the evening.

Our future son-in-law played his part well and aroused minimal suspicion, and I have no doubt he thoroughly enjoyed having a part in the whole stunt. You definitely have to watch the quiet ones.

There was more to this trip than a happy visit. At the same time we have been seeing my husband's mom losing ground and getting closer to dying. At 93, her life has been full and she will leave behind a legacy of love in her hand crafted gifts to her children and grandchildren, as well as memories of family time and travels with all four of her kids.

Hours before we drove to Philadelphia we sat in a nursing home and held her hand, knowing this was the last time we would be with the physical presence already vacant of the person we knew and loved. It was hard to leave and at the same time we have been praying for her to mercifully let go.

We needed our kids after this, to be in a place of light and laughter after a heartbreaking visit that could only end in a final goodbye. The call may come today or tonight or tomorrow. It can not physically go on much longer than that.

Surprising the girls might have been risky but it was the best thing we could have done - no doubt for us more than them. The next time we are together will likely be at a graveside for their grandmother. Fortunately, their memories of her will be Gramma whose beautifully crafted quilts in their favorite colors lay across their beds and whose embroidery adorns their pillowcases with birds or bunnies or flowers. They are surrounded by these pieces of her love.

And being surrounded by our blessings is what it's all about.

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