Baby Steps

Baby Steps

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Baby Steps

The hardest lesson in life we have to learn is which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn.

Ann Landers

It happens in every family: angry words between parent and child, heated arguments between brother and sister, somebody walking off into the night.

And the family tie is broken.

It happened in my family without an argument.

I still don’t know what triggered it. I just know my oldest son married, moved to Hawaii, and stopped calling or returning phone calls.

It took a child to break the silence.

So proud he could burst, my son had to call and tell me about Travis Hannelai Haas, born a year ago. Gradually, hesitantly, we started talking again. Photographs arrived of a chubby, blond, blue-eyed baby with Asian eyes. What a hunk!

“Come to Travis’s first birthday,” my son said in a telephone call. “Please come.”

Baby steps could close the family circle once again.

“Go,” my aunt said. “Life’s too short.”

Even my neighbor offered advice. “Go,” he said. “I wish I were so lucky,” he added, referring to a similar unfathomable rift in his own family.

“Go,” said my husband, pulling the suitcase from the closet.

Tom was late meeting me at the airport in Maui. We both were nervous. After five years of silence, neither of us knew where to start. We had to find neutral ground somewhere. The baby became safe territory.

At the restaurant, Travis sat beside his mother, eyeing me from a safe distance. He slapped the table. I slapped the table. He slapped the table again and caught my eye. One, two, three times we played the game. Then he looked away, made a pout just like his dad’s, turned and slapped both hands on the table, trying to catch Grandma napping.

That was the moment when I finally understood what being a grandma is all about. Travis was no longer a photograph. He was a wonderful, bright and beautiful boy.

I brought a toy piano to the birthday party two days later. Sure, it was a grandma gift. I wasn’t going to be around to hear Travis pound away at two some morning.

He loved it. It makes lots of noise.

Guests at the party all talked about family. Most had left relatives on the mainland. “I don’t like L.A.,” one guest said. “I hate to go there, but I sure do miss my family at birthdays and Christmas.”

The next day, Tom drove me to the Haleakala Crater for sunrise and along the fifty-three-mile Hana Highway, past waterfalls and sacred pools. He made a point of helping me down the moss-covered stairs leading to the ocean. It was comforting to have a guide who is 6 feet 5 inches tall and built like a rock.

The water is crystal clear. It’s impossible to hide here. We healed somewhere among the 617 turns and 56 single-lane bridges on the Hana Highway that day. We healed without talking about the past. Instead, we talked about the future, his plans and dreams and ambitions for himself and his family.

Travis is walking now, circling the backyard in Makawao.

At the art gallery in the Grand Hotel, I got into a conversation with the saleswoman. She moved to Hawaii a few years ago from Laguna Beach. “Maui is a wonderful place to raise children,” she said. “They are safe here.”

My son says he will never let the family tie break again.

“I missed you, Mom,” he said.

I wanted to ask, “Why didn’t you call months ago?” I wanted to ask, but I didn’t.

Life’s too short.

Jane Glenn Haas

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