Our daughter drove us to the Oakland Airport for our dawn flight back to Baltimore. It took her only fourteen minutes. Her husband stayed home in Alameda in case our grandbaby woke up before mommy could return.

Little Eve is their daughter, but more so, and far more significant, she’s our grandbaby, all fifteen months of her. The last time we saw her, due to COVID-19, she was a little nugget, too young to remember us. This time we got the chance to feed her (she especially enjoys fistfuls of squash and avocado), play with her, sing songs with her (“Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin? Here I am. Here I am. How are you today, sir? Very well I thank you. Runaway. Runaway.”), change her diapers, take her to her favorite parks where she can see doggies, put on her jammies, put her down for her naps and listen to her chatter away with her special friends with whom she sleeps: Doggie, Bun-bun, Bear and Duckie.

Best of all, we got to see her come close to mastering walking. Hooray for balance and bipedalism! Now that she’s walking, it’s a wink and a prayer until she learns to drive.

Our daughter texted us before we boarded our flight to report that Eve had awakened and toddled into every room looking for us. When my wife read that, she sniffled and wiped tears for an hour. Except for FaceTime, we won’t be able to see her in person until early February when number two is expected to arrive.

Due to this damnable COVID-19, the holidays are going to be very different, very quiet, very lonely. Santa will visit via U.S. postal. We have to put in smart months until we can beat this virus. At least we were able to grab this window of opportunity the other week. We were impressed with how well the airline — with its 65% capacity, blocking off middles seats, the requirement of masks and social distancing — adhered to safe and wise health precautions.

It was our best chance to safely visit and fall in love with her again in person. The week went too quickly. We still have our souvenirs of lingering aches and pains from spending time with her getting up and down on the floor. I’m hardly as agile as before, nor are my knees as flexible as before. Our daughter and her husband, renting their first full house rather than a tiny apartment, could use more furniture and comfy chairs.

But then we remember when the best chairs we had in our living room were folding lawn chairs. They’ll do it the way we all did it: one stick of furniture at a time. Their living room is the playroom for a free-range little girl, who, of course, is the smartest, cleverest, most imaginative, the most beautiful little girl in the entire world, with killer eyes to die for. She already had won my heart when I got to hold infant her, but when Eve placed her little hand in mine to steady herself, she slew me forever. How do you learn to love? You love.

We’ll just have to settle for a quiet Thanksgiving and a lonely Christmas. Small sacrifice when you think of it. But yes, very different from the days before. It is their turn to forge their traditions. I remember when we first had our firstborn and traveled home to New Jersey for Thanksgiving and Christmas to share the holidays with both sets (hers, mine), which was extra hard given I worked holidays.

We did learn you could warm a bottle by placing it on the windshield heater. The time did come when we had to tell the moms we were going to stay home for our own Christmases. We continued for a while gathering for Thanksgiving with our patriarch and matriarch plus five plus thirteen grandchildren, along with sundry strays. Eventually, those gatherings tapered off due to deaths, relocations, loss of homestead, and the desire for families to host their own Thanksgivings, especially once those five kids started becoming grandparents themselves. Eleven total now, ten alive, and still counting.

A very fine Christian preacher once emphasized how the unity of Christians is based on brotherhood with Christ more than on the fatherhood of God. Why? As he explained, when his father died, the bond between his brother and himself was broken. They had to make the effort to work on being brothers and staying in touch.

The Rev. Robert Andrews is a retired pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church in Danville. Read more of his work at robertjohnandrews.com.

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