Today was a sea day: no wake-up alarm, no tour, no schedule. We were looking forward to fully relaxing, even if we are up at the break of dawn. This day started with a flash, literally: the phenomena of hundreds of flying fish!
Flying fish are not uncommon, in our experience, along a Carbbean cruise route. This morning was a bit unusual, as we observed them for several hours and many nautical miles. Sometimes two or three or four, sometimes a dozen or more, surfacing from beneath the sea, skimming across the trough of the wave, a sleek flash of silver before resubmerging. From our 9th deck balcony, they seem tiny. At sea level, they are perhaps the length of a man’s hand?
I don’t know much about them, really, except that lost-at-sea survival stories often mention the life-sustaining gift of flying fish. Gazing across the vast expanse of ocean rolling under a blazingly hot sun and nearly cloudless sky, neither a speck of land nor another ship in sight, I try to imagine the joy of receiving such a gift.
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All week long I pondered this phenomena. It is quite magical: fish with wings! It happens so fast that you are not quite sure you see what you thought you saw. In a flash, it is there and it is gone. As I thought about flying fish, I realized that from time to time I have received another version of flying fish. By this I mean a wholly unexpected, largely undeserved, and all too fleeting gift.
The day my dad passed over was a flying fish — an extended period of lucidity and sacred immersion as we ushered him to the other side. The birth of each of our three children was a flying fish — a precious few hours when joy is unspeakable and the promise of a new life boundless, full to overflowing. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover the birth of each grandbaby to be a flying fish, too!
In the crazy-stressful-busyness of raising children, you might miss a lot of flying fish. I’m sure I did, no matter how reflective I try to be. That’s the biggest benefit to grandparenting: perspective. I didn’t know until this week that what I treasure most today might also be called “flying fish” experiences with each grandchild.
Sometimes it is when they learn a new sound or word, perhaps “moooo” and especially “GiGi.” It is in the warmth of recognition when they have come to know me and let me know that they want to be with me. It is in the pit-pat of tiny feet taking first steps, in their little arms wrapped around my neck, and in every sweet snuggle, settling in for rocking, reading, or lullabies. Unexpected, undeserved, and all too fleeting gifts.
Before we left for vacation, I was overcome with the sense that I would miss each of them terribly. Between my work travel schedule and our vacation and their parents’ vacations, February through April can be pretty tough for GiGi! It was 8 o’clock and I hadn’t begun to pack yet but I was compelled to do something to remind each of my love. I went into the glass shower where the acoustics might help the effort, sat on the bench, and recorded a song for each. For Rosie, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” For Oliver, “Down by the Bay.” For Sadie, “Bicycle Built for Two.” For Henry, “Baby Beluga.” Silly, I know. But I couldn’t help myself from leaving behind a smile and a song, just in case they missed me, too.
All week long I experienced flashbacks to our vacation a year ago, when 9-mos old grandboy Henry was on board with us. What a treat it was to vacation together! As the wee lad took his first flight, learned to peek-a-boo and to clap, savored mashed potatoes, enjoyed his first sail and the sea, and even when he peed on his GiGi we experienced a fleeting gift, not unlike a flying fish. Now Henry is almost two years old, growing all too quickly into an independent little boy. A couple of days into our trip, his mama sent a video of Henry singing his favorite new song, Snuggle Puppy, while playing his xylophone. Such a sweet performance! His Pops and I picked up the tune, singing along as I replayed it over and over, a lifeline in lonely moments away from our four grandbabies.
My dream has been to vacation regularly with each of our grandchids, to share experiences afar and adventure together removed from the responsibilities of home and work. I know that won’t happen anytime soon, farm responsibilities such as they are. Yet we are immeasurably blessed that they all live near by. In the daily routine, life is busy and can be stressful — for their parents as for us. I hope and pray we know flying fish when we see them.
~ René Morley