Surrounded by soggy love, here’s a photo of me enjoying my mom enjoying her wet grandchildren. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: Realizing life will never again be the same

It was totally the cat's fault

For the first time in a very long time my children were able to hug their grandmother. It was a welcome reunion last week, albeit a little bittersweet.

As you may know, we added a kitten to our family back in April, after literal years of debate about it. When we moved into our home six months after our son was born seven years ago, we opted for a pet-free house so that my very allergic mother could come from the Lower Mainland and stay over without having to risk death by dander to do it.

We kept it like that for many years but as the children grew, it became more and more apparent they would greatly benefit from having a pet. Well into the throws of COVID-19, we finally relented.

Fast forward to last week when, now that everyone in my family is fully vaccinated save for my two young children, Grammy got to visit again. She’s camping up Island for a month or so, so she finally was able to come to the house.

We spent an hour inside my freshly cleaned home, with the kids showing off all the school work she hadn’t seen and all their Christmas presents and birthday gifts and their rooms (as if she hadn’t seen them before!?) and other random stuff they wanted her to see since she was last over, which would have been early 2020 at best. Then we spent two hours out and about and before going back inside for another hour or so. It was a glorious time being together once again.

I later learned the visit took my mom two full days to recover from. I know my kids are a lot to handle, especially when they’re excited to see their Grammy in person, but it was totally the cat’s fault. My poor mom’s eyes were swollen and her nose all drippy and breathing laboured for a solid 48 hours following her visit. I knew at the time she was reacting a little bit, runny nose, sneezing etc., but she played it cool and we made significant efforts to keep our time indoors short.

I felt horrible. I’m heartbroken to know that realistically she’ll never be able to spend any great amount of time at my home again.

How’s that for a happy story?

I know, it’s not.

I will say though, that on the day of her visit, we went to the park and had a picnic and I saw something that made my broken heart swell.

After we were done eating our lunch, my mom got up and went and played on the playground with my children. It gave me a sense of peace and joy that I don’t often feel — like all was right with the world. They ran around and played on the swing and laughed and hooted and hollered and hugged and no doubt wore my mom right out. All three of them were just so darn happy. I felt so thrilled to be able to witness it.

It happened again when we went up Island to visit her this week. My two nieces were over from the Mainland to camp with her and my step-dad and we all went to the new playground at Maffeo Sutton Park in Nanaimo.

My kids being seven and five are really the only ones I figured would truly enjoy the outing. My nieces, however, now 12 and 14, had just as much fun playing on the zip-lines and swings and merry-go-round too. And yet again, my poor old mom got roped into playing and I got to watch her have the best time with my kids and two-thirds of my sister’s children and it just warmed my heart.

After the playground we all wandered over the bridge at the park there and down to the beach. My son is just flatly unable to stay out of the water, and, as I expected, he got soaked.

We headed back to the car, passing through a giant cooling structure spraying a fine mist. The other three kids got a little soggy there too.

Taking a cue from my son whose favourite thing to do when wet is to run around offering hugs to anyone who is dry, all four kids converged on my mom arms open wide. At first she eluded them.

“Mom!” I shouted with surprise. “After all this time away you’re denying your grandchildren’s love?!”

“Yes!” she replied, still on the move.

Of course we were both joking. The kids, however, never gave up and eventually cornered her in the parking lot.

To see all but one of her five grandchildren surround her in love made me so happy. It also made me sad that she won’t be able to stay at my house anymore.

But that day playing, and the one a few days earlier at the park closer to my house, reminded me that quality is better than quantity. Sure she can’t sleep over anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the time we do get to spend together elsewhere. And seeing how much my mom loves us all makes me want to take the advice my good friend gave me recently: look for solutions not problems. I sure do love my mom. I hope she’s proud of the grown-up I’ve become.

Cowichan Valley Citizen