“Rose,” I call out. “Where are you?”
I say this at least five times a day during my granny days. Rose’s favourite game is to play hide and seek round the house although she hasn’t quite got the hang of it. So she usually calls out from her hiding place (behind the kitchen door or behind the sofa) to give me her precise location.
“I’m here, Gan Gan,” she trills. “I can see you.”
But I can’t see her.
Perhaps that’s because the Skype connection isn’t working very well at the moment. For a minute I get a pang in my chest. I need to see Rose and talk to her. It seems like ages since I left for a week of intensive writing in Spain even though it’s actually only been three days. I miss the little ones so much! And of course my daughter, son-in-law and husband. (Better put that in or they’ll be offended!)
“There you are!” I exclaim as Rose’s face suddenly pops into view. Ah! She’s wearing a new dress with a little bow in her hair. I love brushing her long auburn hair in the morning just as my beloved live-in grandmother had brushed mine.
“We’re going on a picnic!” she announces. “Do you want to come too?”
Oh dear. This hurts so much. “I’d love to,” I say gently. “But I’m too far away so I’m afraid I can’t.”
“No,” she says imperiously. “You come too.”
My daughter looms into sight. “I’ve explained you’re away,” she says. “But Rose keeps asking for you.” Then she puts George in front of the screen. “Guess what? He’s got two new words. Tractor and ham.”
Talk about chalk and cheese!
“And you know how runny his nappies have been recently? I was right. It was his teeth. They’re all coming through at once.”
That’s me put in my place then. I’d been convinced that George had a stomach bug. It’s all too easy to put a tummy upset down to nashers. But it looks like I’m wrong…
“We miss you, Gan Gan,” says my daughter using the name that my grandchildren call me by.
Tears fill my eyes
“I miss you too,” I say. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder why I’m away at all.
Still, it makes me sympathise even more with my friends who are Skype Grans. “We talk three times a week,” says one whose daughter emigrated to New Zealand last year with her three children aged two to eleven. “It’s better than nothing but it’s not the same. Skype is great unless one of them is upset. It’s awful to see them cry.”
One of my other granny friends says she finds it best to arrange a time and date for “Skype dates”. “Otherwise one of you rings when the other is doing something. Neither of you want to say you’re busy. You just drop everything in order to talk. But it can be difficult if you’re rushing to get somewhere. I miss the spontaneity when they’re here.”
Another of my friends whose grandchildren are in Hong Kong has taken to writing letters instead. “It’s something they can re-read and hold in their hands rather than a phone call or email. They write letters back. I pin them on my kitchen board along with photographs. It makes me feel they are nearer.”
One bonus of being an away-grandparent is that you have special time when you go there or they come here, says a grandad in our circle. “I actually feel rather sorry for the grandparents who lives near them in France because they have all the tough day-to-day stuff. I can spoil them and treat it like a holiday.”
Meanwhile, I’m still feeling rather blue about being away from mine even though it’s for such a short time.
Perhaps it’s here that I ought to make a confession…
Although I love looking after my grandchildren, I’m not getting any younger. It’s a tiring business looking after two small tinies who go in opposite directions. So I’d been looking forward to a week’s rest. But even though I’m enjoying the luxury of being able to write all day without interruption, I miss them all terribly.
Then I get the call from my husband. “Don’t worry but…”
My heart starts to pound. What’s happened? It’s our dog. One of his teeth has cracked and he needs an operation to remove it. Now my husband doesn’t have children of his own. Our dog is his baby. I can tell he is choked from his voice and I am upset too. Our dog is quite old. Will he be all right under an anesthetic?
I almost book an early flight home but my husband talks me out of it. Instead, I am on tenterhooks until I receive the “He’s all right” message. Phew! Then I get a picture of Rose making our dog a Get Well card. I should be home, there with them.
Then again, maybe this break is showing us all how much we need each other.
“I’ll be back late tonight,” I remind my daughter during a Skype call (great connection this time!) at the end of the week.
“Lovely,” she says. “We could have breakfast together. Is 6.30 OK? George has been waking at 4 so we’ll have been up for hours by then.”
6.30? No lie in for me then…
“I can’t wait,” I say.
And I mean it.