A few weeks ago, my family went on vacation to the beach. We brought all three generations, from the youngest, my son, at 3 months to the oldest, my father, who suffers from Parkinson’s, at 84 years old. In between all the sandcastles and boardwalk ice cream, was a melding of family, with all the blessings and bruises family brings. It’s these times that remain etched in our memories when all of us are gone. The fragments of time, of the very young and the very old doing the ordinary things, are what stay.
That week, I watched my father walk downstairs and quietly ask my 15 year old niece, who pulled her attention away from her i-phone, to help him put on his watch. I watched her fiddle with it for a while, as he stood there patiently. He wavered a bit, standing unsteadily, as her nimble young fingers clasped the watch around his slight wrist.
I listened to the daily giggles in the house from children running, laughing and singing; and I listened more intently when my father spoke quietly about the joy of hearing all the grandchildren in one place.
I watched my nieces race my daughters down the miles of sandy beaches. I watched older cousins throw the younger ones into the air, and the little ones fall into fits of giggles. I watched as my daughters clung fearlessly and devotedly to my nieces. In my nieces, I saw my daughters. Loving, gentle and kind sisters.
I practiced yoga with my 2 year old daughter and my sister-in-law-turned-yoga instructor. My 2 year old climbed under my downward dogs and stretched her fingers to the sun. We glanced at each other upside down, and we sat like frogs.
I struggled to find the words as my 5 year old daughter asked me the most difficult of questions. “Mama, if we all leave the beach house to go to the beach, who will be here to help grandpa walk around?” and “Mama, why is grandpa old?” Her rawness and simple truth was uncomfortable for me, as I stumbled to find uncomfortable answers.
We provided arms and legs for my father to lean on when he needed it. My mother walked with him to see the beach. My brother and sister-in-law walked with him around the block. And I walked with him to lunch. We walked and walked and walked. We helped, we laughed and we rallied. We are bruised and we are blessed. We are family, and these are the patchworks of our memories.