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When adult children live far away

Published September 15. 2012 09:02AM

Last week my friend Janice asked me a simple question: Does my daughter like ice cream. I had to say I didn't know.

"What do you mean, you don't know. You don't know if your own daughter eats ice cream?" she retorted.

My two daughters and I are faithful in keeping in touch via phone at least twice a week. We are "sharers" and I think we have plenty of in-depth conversations, way beyond superficial talk.

If anything special or significant happens to any of us, our first instinct is to "tell the family." We definitely share the ups and downs of our lives. And we each like the fact that we are fast to share feelings.

But there is only so much we can know about each other without extended visits. I can't assume my daughters like the same things they did when they lived at home. We each evolve over the years. I've changed a lot during the past ten years and I know they have, too.

When parents and adult children live near each other, they know more about the minutia of their everyday lives. They don't have to ask, do you like ice cream? Or, what kind of breakfast cereal do you like?

For the first time in at least three decades, my daughter Maria managed to schedule time off from work to fly to my home in Florida for a long visit. As I prepared for her visit by stocking up on food, I realized I didn't know her food preferences, beyond her old favorites. After she arrived, we quickly rectified that by shopping together.

Supermarket shoppingit's such a simple thing to do together. But I took great delight in doing it with her. One of the things I've liked best has been the chance to share small moments with her.

Conversation over morning coffee and mother-daughter shopping trips are small delights we don't often manage. Families who live close to each other might not know the gift they are given in being able to do things like that on a regular basis.

With Maria, I've done some of the typical tourist things, taking her to Mote Marine and Aquarium and showing her nearby towns. I've also been able to share some of my favorite activities with her, including taking her to my favorite river to kayak.

She had more than a bit of trepidation about alligators but she was thrilled with the pristine beauty all around her. Now, she'll be better able to understand when I talk with her on the phone and tell her about another day in paradise.

I regard kayaking, biking and exercise class as needed everyday activities. When they visit, my daughters join in these activities, calling it "Pattie's Boot Camp."

I need to be active as much as I need to breathe. It's part of my DNA. Maria, on the other hand, much prefers a slower pace. I thrive on being outdoors. She puts up with the daily steam bath of Florida weather. While we are opposites, we are united in getting the most out of our time together.

I had a call from a newspaper this week asking me to cover a local event. I said, sorry. These are precious moments with my daughter. I can work any old time. But I seldom have the pleasure of being with my daughter. My editor understood.

Any parent can understand, especially parents separated from offspring by long distances.

During the two and a half weeks I just spent with my first born, I felt like I was unwrapping small gifts all day and night. I swim in my pool a lot but it became a special event one night when we turned on the pool lights and enjoyed a late hour in the water under a spectacular full moon.

Did you ever notice that somehow, even the stars in the sky look brighter when you're with someone you love?

When it was time for her visit to end, I thought our time together was a lot like life itself - too short. Entirely too short. No matter how much we get, when it's ending, we long for more.

We'll just have to store our memories and know that we will always be connected by heartstrings, no matter how far away we are from each other.

I often wonder if families who still live near each other know how lucky they are. Or, do they take their daily opportunities for granted?

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