It was a great weekend. Friends and family gathered to celebrate the high school graduation of our grandson. Brats and burgers hot off the grill, salads, chips, dip and much more filled the dining room table and flowers from the backyard English-style garden graced unexpected corners. We smiled–and occasionally chuckled–at snapshots dating from infancy (“aw-w-w, wasn’t he cute?”) through the boyhood and teen years. We spoke of successes in the field of sports and academics, about faithful friends–some who’ve been part of his life since nursery school days, about skateboard-induced trips to the emergency room. This fall he leaves his San Francisco birthplace for university in Boston where he will pursue the subject of physics. (Something the many ‘word people’ in our family marvel at.)
As we sat in the living room after delectable rum cake dessert, I saw the family: our daughter, two sons and their wives, the celebrant grandson and two granddaughters. We missed the other grandson who couldn’t attend because he’s already part of the working world. But there was a hole in the family. Our second son, Rick, died many years ago at the age of eighteen. The piercing pain of his illness and death has faded, but he is very present in memory. I wondered what he would have become: would he be married? have children? what career would he have chosen? With his early interest in science and math, perhaps he would have walked a path similar to the one this new graduate is beginning. I think Rick would have been proud of this graduating nephew, his scientific, creative, curious mind, his pursuit of education. He would have spurred on the other nephew now searching for his own unique niche in life. He would have laughed at his younger niece’s zest and energy and been so proud of his older niece’s strength of will and quiet smile.
Yes, there was a hole in the family this weekend, but not a deep, depressing hole. Just an acknowledgement that you were absent, Rick. And you were missed. And you are loved.