Not Just Half the Ocean

Grandson Cadence Visits the Pineapple Maze. September, 2011.
Photo by Judi Matoushek, my Co-Grandma

Another Speck, Farther Across the Sea

“This is our guest room,” Elaine said, as we looked at a picture of a pleasant room. “And here’s the boys’ bedroom.”

Rich and I studied the computer screen. My daughter, at the other end of our Skype connection, was carrying her laptop through their new home in Honolulu, giving us a virtual tour. “It looks lovely, Sweetie,” I told her. “We plan to come see you in the early part of 2012.” 

Later Cadence popped into view. “How was your birthday, Cadence?”
“Lala, why weren’t you here? I wanted you to be here on my birthday!”
Before I could speak, my daughter answered, “Cadence, you know it’s a long, long way from Lala’s house to our house. We’ll see them at Christmas.” 
We’re getting pretty good at being a long-distance family. I’ve written here and here about their move to Honolulu, 4,000 miles from our home in Southern California. 
Technology helps. Video calls let us watch the boys grow, blow kisses to them, read them stories. They allow my daughter to walk us through her family’s new home.
I think of my aunt, whose husband was stationed in Japan in the early 1960s. She gave birth to her first child there, far from the support of a loving family. I remember the letters, carefully penned on ultra-thin airmail paper, and how my mother would rip them open as eagerly as a child tears into a Hershey bar, hungry for news from her little sister. 
And I think of my grandmother, who gave birth to my dad on Guam in 1934, when the Marine Corps stationed my grandfather there. Not long ago my father showed us an old photo album of his family’s sojourn in Agana. I studied the photos carefully, imagining what my grandmother’s life was like, nearly 80 years ago on that faraway speck in the sea.
Two weeks later, Elaine called me. “We have Rob’s new orders, Mom,” she began, and I heard her take a deep breath. “Early in 2012, they’re moving Rob to the U.S.S. Key West.
“What port?” I asked, holding my own breath.

“Pearl Harbor–” she began. 

I exhaled. So they wouldn’t be returning to San Diego. When Rob was promoted to chief, the Navy had to issue new orders to him, as the Charlotte didn’t need a chief in his specialty. We had hoped, without any grounds other than the desire of our hearts, that the new orders might bring them back to the west coast. 
“…for now. In a year or so the sub’s moving. To Guam.” 
I clapped my hand over my mouth to trap the words that fought to spill out: Why don’t you and the boys just come back to California while he’s there? Stunned by my own selfishness, I swallowed that idea and said, “Oh.” 
Recovering, I asked, “Permanent orders?”

“Yup.” I could hear Elaine smiling through the phone. When a sailor is under temporary orders, the navy won’t pay to relocate the family. Permanent orders are a good thing. 

We chatted for a moment more, then hung up. Guam. What a funny little bit of family history repeating itself, I thought. I struggled to remember if my grandmother had shared any stories with Elaine about her days on Guam. I wondered, idly, if Elaine and Rob would add to their family while there. 
I’m trying to figure out what difference it makes if the kids are 4,000 miles away in Hawaii or 6,200 miles away in Guam. The time difference is greater. Airfare is more expensive. 
But we’ll still have Skype, and cell phones, and digital cameras, and the postal service. News and gifts will flow back and forth. Rich and I will visit Guam, a place we’d be unlikely to vacation otherwise. 
And Elaine and Rob will keep their family together, no matter what little speck in the sea they’re sent to. At Elaine’s bridal shower, we played a game of answering questions about the bride. In response to Where would Elaine want to live if she could live anywhere? I wrote, Wherever Rob is.

“I’d accept that answer,” she said as we tallied our scores. 

I miss–sometimes painfully–the days when only 90 miles of freeway lay between us and them.
My daughter has a husband who loves her thoroughly, sacrificially, completely, just as Christ loves His bride, the church. The joy their union brings to this mother’s heart is big enough to stretch to Hawaii.
I reckon it’ll stretch to Guam, too. 
Rob, Rich, Sawyer, me, Elaine, Cadence. San Diego. August, 2011.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. 

Ephesians 5:25-33 (NASB)


  1. Kaye Swain - SandwichINK for Grandparents and Caregivers

    Oh, I know exactly how you feel as my family is now on two coasts! It's hard, isn't it! BUT GOD – one of my favorite phrases! BUT GOD gets us through and provides abundantly. And as you wisely point out, what a blessing technology is for all of us dealing with this. 🙂 Have a blessed week

  2. Yes, Kaye, God will carry us through. And the technology helps! Thanks for coming by. Have a great week.

  3. Sheila, your heart is filled with godly, grace-filled wisdom. My own heart lurched through several parts of your post today. I suspect it took you a while to process what God was doing and what He would have you do and say in those situations. You inspire me! Thanks, Friend!


  4. Aren't they interesting, these little family 'inclusios?' These turnings that bring us back to a square one somewhere in our family pattern? Sigh. Wish it could have been San Diego or another west coast port – but there will be adventures to be had and memories to be made on those pin-dots on the vast Pacific, that's for sure. I hear your mama's heart, Sheila. And that Lala heart, too!

  5. Carolyn Counterman

    That was lovely, Sheila. You are a good Mama.

  6. Those Skype connections help some, at least the visual is there. No real hugs just blowing kisses.
    Congratulations that the promotion gave them a better status, even if they will be further away. Our daughter who lived in Alabama for 2 years now lives 4 miiles from us, so time can change. In the mean while keeping each other in your prayers is the touch that binds.

  7. Linda,
    Thanks. One of the best things He's done for me is to help me remember to keep my mouth shut while I'm processing….

  8. Diana,
    It is odd, isn't it? I'm hoping they'll get a chance to see my dad's photo album while they're home for Christmas.

  9. Carolyn,
    I'm blessed with a great daughter and son-in-law. That makes it all so much easier!

  10. Hazel,
    That visual is worth a whole lot, with growing grandboys over there…

  11. Your post had me thinking about the year when the Swede and I were engaged and living six hours away from one another. Neither of us could afford the time away from work or the money for gas to visit very often. There were no cell phones, Skype, email or Facebook. Daily I checked my mailbox for a handwritten letter. The absence or presence of one made all the difference on any given day. Not much difference between 4,000 and 6,200 or even 600 miles when you can't reach out and touch your beloved. Sigh. Always something to look forward to, I guess!

  12. True that, Nancy! Although at this stage of our lives, the gas money could fit in to the budget any ole time, while airfare does take some planning.

  13. Sandra Heska King

    Lala. I love it.

    I'm glad technology makes our world smaller. But it doesn't make up for the lack of skin-to-skin touch. But I think of what joy it must bring you to have a son-in-law who loves your daughter so well. And her him.

  14. Lala 🙂 My daughter taught Cadence to call me that. It's right there in the middle of my name: SheiLA LAgrand…you see.

    And you are right, Sandy. I do miss those little hands holding mine. But my "bigger" grandkids were here yesterday. So I'm not destitute of grandchildren due to this move.

    But they're not interchangeable, you know?

  15. Sorry for the extra 2,200 miles. Glad for the technology and the love in your daughter's little and big families…just like you.

  16. You are a good mama indeed. Do you ever stop missing the kids? Probably not. Thanks for blessing your children and setting an example for those of us who still have a full house!

  17. Brandee, Thanks. I too am grateful, for all those things. And for my daughter's husband and in-laws and their big, big hearts.

  18. Susan,
    I'm sure Elaine could provide you with an example or two of times when I was a not-so-great mama…but I do try. Nope, never stop missing them. But I'm learning to enjoy the empty nest.