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Warmest regards: Precious time with family

I just spent an incredibly wonderful week with my family. We tried to hold onto every minute because we knew our time together was too short.

My daughters and I are especially close, and we enjoy every opportunity to be together.

But the COVID-19 pandemic was the Big Bad Wolf that blew our house down. Since we live far apart, we have to fly to be together. For way too long flying wasn’t an option with the soaring pandemic until we were all vaccinated.

It’s been almost two years since we were all together, and even then it was a case of coordinating work schedules.

Finally daughter Andrea’s and her husband Greg’s Maine house was the beautiful backdrop for a family get-together.

I cried with joy when I could finally hug my daughters.

Every day with them was joyful - kayaking on the lake, going for motorboat rides with Captain Greg, touring the quaint little towns, having lobster just off the boat with the amazing female boat captain who caught the lobster then pulled the lobster meat for the lobster rolls.

Captain Sadie Samuels is the subject of a film that will be shown in September at an international film festival in Maine. Because my son-in-law produced the documentary, Sadie came to spend a little time with us while we enjoyed her lobster rolls. Just another great memory from a week filled with special moments.

All that was wonderful. Yet, with seeing all the glory that is Maine and enjoying it all, my favorite activity was just sitting around the table after dinner with my family. Having my grandson Grayson there with us to entertain with his funny stories added to the fun.

My daughter Andrea kept making lists of activities, asking Maria and me to pick what we wanted to do. We both said just talking with family.

Although we talk regularly on the phone, nothing meets our in-person talks, always punctuated with much laughter.

If only I could do it more than once a year.

While I’m definitely a small-town girl, both my daughters love living in big cities. So I was surprised to hear Andrea say grown kids get shortchanged when they move away from family.

“Families had it better years ago when generations of family lived in the same town,” she said.

From my much older perspective, I know that’s true. When my grandfather died, my grandmother moved in with my mom and our family. The house always rang with laughter when my aunts came for visits several times a week.

Our home life was lively and loving. None of us had to go looking for love. It was right there, surrounding us with loving family that always saw the best in each of us.

When I married and had my own two daughters, getting together with our extended family was still a priority.

But as my daughters and their cousins moved away, our family kept shrinking. Then extended family time became scarce as “the kids” settled into their own lives and we tried to make the best of an empty next that no our longer rang with the laughter of our daughters.

My husband and I tried to make the best of it, traveling to new little islands and doing things together. But no matter what we did, nothing was better than when “the girls came home to visit.”

It’s still like that.

I talked with two different women recently about the major life transition of having our kids grow up and move away, coming back far too seldom.

Both said it’s been more than a decade since they’ve been coping with an empty nest but they still ache for more time with their kids.

Every year my best friend’s daughter asked what she wants for her birthday. Every day she gives the same answer. She just wants her daughter to come home for long visit.

She will soon get her birthday wish. Her daughter is coming to Florida to visit for a month. My friend is so excited she could fly to the moon on her enthusiasm.

The best thing an adult child can give to a parent is definitely presence.

My daughters know that and they jump through hoops to make a long visit possible.

I saw so many acts of love as my daughters made my Maine trip memorable.

My daughter Maria promised to make a Maine album so we can relive those memories.

Meanwhile, we are talking and planning, trying to see when we can all get together again.

I’ve often said every day of life is precious and it’s up to each of us to seize all the joy each day has to offer.

Yet we all know that joy intensifies when the family is all together.

If your family lives far away, invest in a trip. All too soon a family shrinks and the chance to see them is gone forever.

I talk with my brother and sister in Pennsylvania every week. It’s not the same as an in-person visit but it’s the only way we can stay close.

We’ve learned not to have superficial conversations. To share instead the ups and downs we are going through. It’s what family does.

There are so many good things in life. But for me, nothing beats being with family.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.