My grandson Dayan leaves tomorrow, headed to his new home for the next few years, a dorm room at the University of Missouri in Columbia. A few of us gathered for an impromptu dinner, to send him off with smiles and gratitude and promises to visit.
It is a big step, for him and his family. My children all attended local universities. Dayan is the first to venture farther out, which is so typical of this world minded young man. He thinks big. He lives big. I am so incredibly proud of him.
Dayan and I have had a strong connection since before he was born. When my daughter was pregnant with him, I had a dream in which an angel appeared, carrying a baby boy. He stretched his arms out toward me. The angel placed the dark haired, dark eyed child in my arms and we studied each other's faces. I knew this was my grandson. My heart overflowed with love for him.
Dayan began calling me Yaya when he was 8 months old. I discovered that Yaya is the Greek word for grandmother. How did this baby boy know that? I'm not sure. I only know he has an old soul, and he was a wise baby, meaning he seemed to know things beyond his years.
We have shared many adventures, this boy and I. We used to invent stories when we were together. We called them The Continuing Adventures of Dayan and Yaya. As he grew older we stopped telling made up stories and lived the adventures instead.
A little foreshadowing, from 10 years ago.
I have learned so much from my oldest grandchild. He taught me by his example to see the good in people, that kindness is always appreciated, and living as the person you are created to be requires courage. He has been my gardening buddy, introduced me to Doctor Who, taught me about the countries of the world, expanded my knowledge and my beliefs.
I have spent one afternoon a week with my grandson, picking him up from school or hanging out with him during the summer, since he was in third grade. We've played games, built virtual kingdoms, explored Joplin and beyond, and these last few years, sat comfortably together on the sofa, watching TV shows such as Doctor Who, Broadchurch, Okkupert (a Norwegian series with English subtitles) and most recently, Once Upon a Time. We've laughed, and sniffled together, and had amazing conversations about every topic imaginable. I always bring him Chinese food.
My heart was very full as I hugged him goodbye tonight. Dayan, these words I send with you as you embark on your next adventure:
I love you. No matter where you go, or who you are, or what you do, or who you journey with, nothing will ever change my love for you. It is absolute and unfailing.
I am always here for you. I am your fan, your cheerleader, your confidante. I will listen, offer my heart and my words, wrap my arms around you, applaud your achievements. You can call, text, message or visit me anytime. Yes, even in the middle of the night. You are never too old, never too far away that my love can't find you.
Be you. Always. Be kind and courageous. Use your mind and your heart and your voice. Learn. Grow. Travel. Explore. Follow your passions and trust your instincts. Keep looking for the good in people, in situations and in the world. Be the change you want to see in the world. Love. Love yourself and love others. Know that the Divine is with you, guiding you.
And keep having adventures. Lots of them.
I am very glad tonight that Columbia is only four hours away. This week, I will miss meeting Dayan at his house, Chinese food in tow. Wednesday afternoons will feel empty for a while.
I am grateful for the relationship we have, for the years we have spent building it word by word and hug by hug and adventure by adventure. I know Dayan will do great things. He has been raised well and prepared for this next step. That he walks on his own now is a tribute to his mom, stepdad and family.
Although I know we might have more adventures together, this is Dayan's time to adventure on his own. This is his journey. And when we cannot walk together, I will surround him with love and joy and peace.
After hugs tonight, I asked Dayan if I could visit him on the MU campus in a couple of weeks, before I leave on my next travel adventure.
"You can visit me any time, Yaya," he said. "Bring Chinese food!"
I will, Dayan. I will!