Love transcends

When you hold an infant in your arms, you have a sense of holding the future. This tiny person will grow into an adult who will likely outlive you, who will go places you will never go, do things you have never done, and see things you have never seen. Holding an infant is a reminder that we are all finite. We have limits. We do not go on forever. We can’t do it all. We can’t have it all. And somehow, holding an infant makes that reality acceptable. It seems right that this tiny person will reach beyond our limits.

I remember holding our children when they were babies and wondering what kinds of lives they might lead. Their great grandparents saw the world change from horse and buggy to humans traveling in space. They witnessed a revolution in transportation. The first practical automobiles came after they were born and they lived to themselves travel on jet airplanes. As I held our children, it seemed to me quite possible that they would live to travel into space and beyond. What I couldn’t imagine at the time was what a revolution in information technology and communications would come in their lifetimes. They are not yet out of their thirties and so much has changed in their lifetimes. Our children are the first generation to not remember life before personal computers. Our family got our first personal computer after they were born, but when they were so young that they don’t remember the event. Now we all carry complex computers in our pockets in the form of cell phones. I didn’t see that particular change coming as quickly as it did.

Now I hold our grandchildren in my arms and try to imagine the world they will see. I know that my imagination is insufficient to predict the wonders of their world.

We raised our children to be independent. We taught them to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions. We encouraged them to go places and do things that we had never done. As high school students, both of our children traveled to Japan as parts of sister city exchanged. We stayed at home and didn’t make the grand trips with them, but felt the trips as investments in their futures and an extension of our family beyond its normal limits. We hosted an exchange student in our home for a year as a way of reaching out and extending family relationships beyond the limits of our own travels. I was not able to imagine, in those days, that one of our children would live in Japan for part of her life. I did not imagine that we might make trips to Japan two years in a row.

And now, here we are, nearing the end of our second trip to Japan in as many years. We have a grandson who was born in Japan and to whom global travel is just a way of life. He is five weeks old and he already has his own passport. It has a really cute picture of him, too. All of our grandchildren have their own passports.

I grew up not too far from the Canadian border in the days when no passport was required to travel between the two countries. I didn’t take a trip that required a passport until I was 25 years old. Our children got their first passports when they were teenagers. Our grandchildren got them as infants. That revolution in transportation that our grandparents witnessed is continuing. Global travel is an option for many people.

Of course there is a downside to having such independent children. We encouraged them to choose their own paths in life and those paths are exciting to us. They also take our children and our grandchildren far from the place we call home. We have the luxury of travel for only a brief period of our lives. As we age, health and finances will limit our ability to travel. We won’t be able to take trips across oceans every year of our lives. We will have to figure out other ways to remain close and to nurture our connections as a family.

Yesterday, as we were talking with our daughter about our trip home, she told us that she was concerned about the long drive we will make after the big flight to the U.S. She knows how tired flying long distances and changing so many time zones can make a person and she is concerned that we will be driving. Her advice about taking care of each other and making sure that we don’t drive when we are tired was an echo of similar concerns that we have expressed to her when she has traveled. Our children grow up to be adults who give us parental advice. Then she added that if we were to have a need she would hop on a plane with her son and come to help us. I have no doubt that she would. I know that her brother would do whatever he was able as well. Of course, we want to take great care so that we don’t make the kind of mistake that requires our children to rush to our rescue. Still, it is great to know that they will be there for us when we need them.

Sending our children off on big adventures when they were young was difficult. It wasn’t easy to say good bye. Even though we chose programs and adventures with care, we knew that they were traveling beyond our reach. We knew that they were spreading their wings beyond our scope of experience. We worried when they traveled and we were delighted when they returned home. Now both of them call places that are very distant home. We have had the great luxury of travel to visit them in their homes, but for now we cannot linger. This year we go back to South Dakota and to our work and to our lives in different places. Our love and our family has to be bigger than any one place. Our grandchildren will continue to grow beyond our reach.

Transcendence is no longer an academic term for me - an idea that is fun to study and discern. It is a reality. Love is bigger than the distances that separate us. As hard as it is to say good bye, it is the right thing to do. We will remain connected despite the distances.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!