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Through the years, through the distance

It seemed like yesterday, but it was 17 years ago when my nephew, Don, became a first-time dad.

He and his wife, Miyoko, were living in Japan at the time when Rikka Marie was born. I remember Don writing home to the family that he could spend hours just watching his infant daughter as she slept, marveling at the smoothness of her skin and the silkiness of her hair. And then his thoughts would turn toward the life she would have before her — the good times and the hard times. He talked about his role in Rikka Marie’s life and how he wanted to be the best dad possible for her.

I hadn’t thought about Don’s comments for a long time, probably years. But I thought about them two weeks ago when I was in West Virginia.

We were there visiting our daughter, Anjee, son-in-law, Dan, and our granddaughters, Addi, 4, and Emma, 3. We hadn’t seen them, other than through Skype, since they had moved to West Virginia in July.

On our first night there, Addi decided she wanted to sleep with me on a twin mattress placed on the floor in her room. I, of course, was more than willing to oblige.

Addi fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, and I started to get up to join the rest of the family in the living room. But glancing back once more at my sleeping granddaughter, I decided it was too soon for me to leave.

It had been such a long time since I had watched a child sleeping. In the quietness of the evening, I marveled at the smoothness of her skin and the silkiness of her hair. I wondered about the life she had before her. I imagined the good times and fretted about the challenges I knew she would have to face.

And, just like my nephew, Don, with his daughter, Rikka, I wondered about my impact on Addi and Emma in West Virginia and my granddaughters, Brynnan and Brooklyn, in Utah.

Being a long-distance grandparent isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I want so much more time with my grandchildren than what I have.

But as I watched Addi sleep that night, I realized there are choices to be made as a grandparent. I could either focus on what I don’t have, or I could focus on what I do have.

And what I had that evening in West Virginia was another three days in which to make memories with my granddaughters, to laugh with them, to hug them, to read with them. I had another three days in which to explore the world with them, to listen to them, and to let them know I loved them and believed in them.

When we left for Illinois three days later, Addi and Emma were being held by their mom and dad, and I was already planning in my mind the next little package I would send them, the next phone call, the next Skyping time.

Being a long-distance grandparent may have its challenges, but that’s OK. It’s definitely worth the effort.

As far as having a lasting, positive impact on my grandchildren, that’s still my goal. But in all reality, I think they are the ones having the lasting, positive impact on me.

BCR Senior Staff Writer Donna Barker can be reached at dbarker@bcrnews.com.

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