Today is the first day of the last week of taking care of Owen in Brooklyn.

As I get ready to walk to Owen’s house, I am filled with gratitude and a little grief. Yesterday I took a walk in the park — Ft. Greene Park — on what might have been our last sunny day. Forecasts this week call for lots of rain.

My daughter Kate challenged me to take some video before I left and to share them with those of you who have followed my adventures in the last year. I did a series of short videos to remind myself of yesterday’s light-filled moments.

First, I explain the connection I feel to a grove of Sycamore trees. I remember similar trees in our yard in the 1960’s at the farmhouse on Newport Road in Lititz, PA, where I grew up and where five generations of my family (Snyders and Hersheys) farmed. The Sycamores still provide shade to the house in its current incarnation as Forgotten Seasons Bed & Breakfast.

Brooklyn, NY, and Lititz, PA, like many places in the East, claim histories that predate the revolutionary war. Old trees may not go back quite that far, but they remind us of the deep past that remains rooted, like a tree that grows in Brooklyn, in the present.

Next, I took a very short video explaining connections between Ft. Greene Park and the rich literary history of Brooklyn.

Today, rain has poured down in Brooklyn, matching my inner world.

No matter how sunny, no video, photo, or blog post, will take the place of Owen’s chubby arms around my neck. Our shared laughter and applause for each new accomplishment will fade as memories with time. So this week there will be more hugs and kisses than usual.

What words are adequate to times like these?

I once woke up in a Catholic retreat center with a hymn playing softly on the intercom. Today I remembered the words of that hymn.

“All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.”

What has helped you part from places or people you love? I could use your wisdom and your thoughts! 





Shirley Showalter


  1. Joan on May 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm


    Change is not an easy thing and when it involves the love of a small being who fills your heart from top to bottom, it is even more difficult. Owen will remain a gift for you always even though the miles are too many to see him on a daily basis. You will have many adventures to share with each other as the years go by. You have had a chance that not so many grandmas have to cement a relationship that is strong and loving.

    • shirleyhs on May 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Joan, you’re so right. Thanks for reminding me that so many grandparents are separated longer and wider than I will be. This experience makes my heart ache for them. I love how you have followed every stage of this journey. Thanks!

  2. Tina Barbour on May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Shirley, My heart aches for you because I know how hard it must be to think of leaving your grandson! I think we get extra attached when we take care of a little one every day. Even though I don’t have children, I do have nephews and nieces, and I remember how hard it was for me to leave them when I moved away from them. It was difficult in a different way for me to leave one niece who I helped care for more than the others.

    I wish I had the greatest of wisdom to give you. All I’ve got is what I learned from leaving beloved family and friends behind. I try to focus on the fact or the possibility that I will see them again, hopefully soon.

    Think about how easily and quickly you can get to Brooklyn to visit, and how Owen can come visit you in Virginia from time to time.

    Enjoy savoring this week!

    • shirleyhs on May 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Tina, you are indeed wise, and you are also such a dear empathetic being. Thanks for following the journey. Such good advice!

  3. Toni on May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    This is a tough one, Shirley…bittersweet and bruising, no way around it.

    But — imagine if you didn’t have the experience. There would be no heartache now….but look at what you would have missed. You have that to carry with you, always.
    And the memory of you is also there in Owen. That cord transcends time and space. Love is eternal. <3

    • shirleyhs on May 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Toni, you know it! When we have children, and then again with grandchildren, we put ourselves at grave risk because their lives and well-being mean more to us than life itself. Thanks for caring. Your many encouragements have been so helpful.

  4. Sandi Dodson on May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Shirley, as you know I have been saying good bye to my grandchildren for years. It is very hard but I have learn not to say good by but I sayI will see you on (give the date). It makes it easier for everyone. There is one thing to remember ,when you see Owen the next time it will be so special and he will not have forgotten you. They give lots of kisses and hugs.

    • shirleyhs on May 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Sandi, I know that if we still lived down the street from each other I could come over for coffee and you would make everything right again. Good advice on always focusing on the next reunion instead of the present parting. And I know how many times you have ached to see your little ones more. Hope that will happen yet for you.

  5. Melissa on May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    You’re still teaching me, Ms. Shirley! I loved the trivia about writers in the park. And those sycamore trees are beautiful. All I know is that you and Stuart have given a wonderful gift of time and presence to your grandson (and his parents). What I would’ve given to have my parents with us our first year as parents! Owen knows you both in a way that will always be special. But it is o.k. to shed some tears and grieve a little, too. It’s never easy saying good-bye.

    • shirleyhs on May 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Melissa, thanks for this comment. And I know your parents would have wanted to help too if they had been able. It was such a special privilege to have the freedom this year to pick up and go. So many moms I met here in the city spoke wistfully and jealously of this same wish. Our modern lives have a downside, don’t they? But there are many blessings to focus on too. Glad you liked the trees! They are great.

  6. Sharon Lippincott on May 22, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Oh, Shirley, how I wish I’d had a year each with my six grandchildren, but relocating that way would not have been an option for us if the idea had occurred. Since airplanes or multi-day drives are involved in seeing any of our three sets, visits have been infrequent, but Skype has gone a long way toward closing the gap.

    Love transcends distance, and quality trumps quantity. Even though they lived within 5 or 6 driving hours, I only saw my grandparents a couple of times a year on average, and our time together was usually a family event, as an adult I feel I knew them well, and have warm, fond memories of them. I knew they loved me in a very special way.

    I have faith that our grandchildren will say the same of us.

    • shirleyhs on May 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Sharon, you bring up a great point. We know that Skype and Facetime will help us with the transition.

      And we know that most grandparents can’t or wouldn’t do what we did this year. We said to both our children that we are doing it because we can and that we don’t promise to do it again because it might not be the right time next time.

      I love your conclusion. I have the same faith. Love does transcend distance.

      Do you have any ways to do special things with your six grandchildren?

  7. Brenda Bartella Peterson on May 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Shirley, your reader, Toni, speaks my mind. Had it not been so rich, you would grieve for this time you have spent with Owen.

    When I lost my son Mark ten years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would always talk about him, remember the richness of my relationship with him and honor it with positive remembrances not just grief.

    I’m so happy for you that you have had these wonderful months with Owen!

    • shirleyhs on May 23, 2012 at 6:48 am

      Oh Brenda. My loss is nothing compared to yours. But your loss makes you more giving and understanding of the hearts of other parents and grandparents. Thank you for knowing. And sharing. And now Mark lives here, too.

  8. Jo on May 23, 2012 at 6:23 am

    Dearest Shirley, I can’t even imagine the heaviness in your heart now, and the void that will follow. But if this had been me, I’m guessing this may have been one of the few years in my life that I could have looked back on and said “That was the best choice. No regrets.” Much Love Jo

    • shirleyhs on May 23, 2012 at 6:52 am

      Jo, thank you for being so empathetic. We grandmas have an instant bond with each other! Stuart and I are getting ready to take Owen on the Staten Island Ferry. Looks like this is the last day we will see sunshine in New York. And behind the incoming clouds, the sun will shine again. Just like life! Thanks for being such a great cheerleader.

  9. Shirley on May 23, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I was thinking of you and Owen early this morning as I prepared my house to receive ten month old Dillon for the day. The lovely phrase, “parting is such sweet sorrow” came to mind.

    In terms of how to get through it, there was a time when I kept a photo close to where I washed dishes. I talked to the person I missed while I worked. It helped me to cry my last tears of loss.

    On the bright side, it won’t be long before you can send Owen a text message and he will respond!

    • shirleyhs on May 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Ha, you’re so right about the text message thing. I give him three more years. Watching babies with cell phones awes me, and not often in a good way. But when it connects grandparents and grandchildren I’m all for it.

      Thanks, Shirley. We are sharing this adventure together. Here’s a hug for Dillon across the miles.

  10. Vi Dutcher on May 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Shirley, My heart breaks with yours. Your experience this week reminds me of the parting I had with our grandchildren six years ago this summer. They spent many over-nights at our house. We took care of them a lot. He was six then, and she was 5. Now they are 12-almost-13 and 11. I will say that your year with Owen was incredibly important as a building block to your relationship with him. Those times I spent with my grandchildren years ago are now the foundation stones to what we have today. And still, it is hard. Yesterday, I wrote a private FB message to my 12-year-old grandson, explaining to him why we would not be in Ohio next week to see him hit a home run (Grandpa recovering from surgery), telling him how much I love him, reminding him that I am his fan, cheering him from afar. But there is nothing like the materiality of a grandmother. And I know that. So we live within this tension–learning how to be close to the grandchild’s heart while separated geographically. It can be done.

  11. shirleyhs on May 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Vi, I’ll depend on you to share some of your special grandma fairy dust secrets. Owen is coming to visit in July. And I’m sure we will see your little (but getting bigger) ones in the back yard also. Wonderful to share not only space but lives.

    • Vi Dutcher on May 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      I look forward to those conversations, and my sentiments exactly!

  12. Terry Helwig on May 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Shirley, a very moving piece. I am touched. In my memoir I write about my two sets of grandparents who were, for me, shining stars in a dark sky. I now tell grandparents to take heart–even short forays into their grandchildren’s lives can be incredibly impactful.

    I have no doubt that your time and love will be remembered–especially in your grandson’s heart and soul.

    Blessings on you as you go forward.

  13. Linda Joy Myers on May 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Dear Shirley, It’s amazing how rich and layers our lives get as we get older–we interact with many levels of time and consciousness in a given moment. You are holding onto and letting go all at once, which must be some kind of spiritual practice! Isn’t it wonderful that we now can connect with our loved ones with Skype, videos, phones –just like in Dick Tracy years ago–the wrist watch phone/TV:)
    Thank you for your videos and heartfelt words. As a grandmother, I am with you on your inner and outer journey.

    Linda Joy

  14. shirleyhs on May 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Beautifully expressed, Linda Joy. You understand exactly the mixture of emotions in this transition. Holding opposites and offering them up to a larger whole is indeed the task I feel, both as I write a childhood memoir and as I let go of the day-to-day care of Owen.

    Dick Tracy. I love it! Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Hope readers find you at the National Association of Memoir Writers.

  15. Richard Gilbert on May 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    How beautiful. Conscious memories do fade, and some are lost, but in the mind and spirit retain it all. Owen will have this gift for life.

  16. shirleyhs on May 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks, Richard. We count on both the deep unconscious and many future adventures together. Our city boy will love his visits to the country, we hope.

  17. Sara Renae on May 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm


    I am just now joining your journey, at its end. What a truly beautiful tribute to a sad but equally beautiful parting!

    I have always grappled with goodbyes and am reminded of the Detroit pastor from Mitch Albom’s latest book, Have a Little Faith, who would always say, “Goodbye, for now”. This is how I say goodbye, now.

    Hope you get to hold that little guy soon!

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      “Good-bye for now” is a wonderful phrase. And I really enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie.

      Thank you for your kind wishes. I welcome you back here any time.

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