Oscar is pining, for the first time in his short life.

his grandparents, Dave’s parents, were here visiting last weekend. a good time was had by all, especially those under three feet tall. Grandmaman and Grandpapa treat the boy like the sun in the sky, and he rises to the occasion, demanding and beguiling their attention from the moment he wakes to the bedtime story Grandmaman weaves for him, rocking in her lap. between them and his Nannie, my mom, his is an embarrassment of grandparental riches. and this is what we moved home for, really, after all those years of vagabonding…the blessing and bounty of seeing our parents with our child, our children, seeing him loved like that. we got lucky.

’til now, Nannie, the local grandparent, has been the one who got most of the glory from O. he learned to say her name over a year ago, one of his first words, and insists that i remind him that Nannie loves him, every night before he goes to sleep. the two of them go on playdates to her place every couple of Saturday mornings, wherein my serious, proper mother apparently dons plastic fire helmets and cavorts around like a banshee. O came home a few weeks ago telling tales of “wheee!” and “Nana!” and when i asked him, disbelieving, if he was trying to tell me that Nannie drove fast, he was most earnestly affirmative. my mother, who stops three feet early in intersections and pumps her brakes in July. with her grandson, she’s a wildwoman. he adores her.

but poor Grandmaman and Grandpapa, though O’s always enjoyed them, haven’t held quite the same presence in his mind until now. Oscar sees them every month or two in person, and has since birth, and waves to them even more frequently on the webcam. they’re topics of conversation in our house, but until this weekend, Oscar’s filial love for them has been of the “out of sight, out of mind” variety.

no longer.

since the moment they left Monday morning, Oscar has been looking around corners and waking up at night, asking hopefully, “Wama? Bapa?” he had never really had a word for Grandmaman before this week, so that when he first asked for her i thought he was asking for his lovey, his stuffed rabbit…a substitution which affronted and exasperated O most intolerably. he misses them. he feels their absence, and it is new to him, and weighty. there’s a look on his face that i’ve never seen before…he’s wistful, uncertain. he knows they’re not just down the road, somehow…that this is different from when Nannie goes home and comes back tomorrow or in a couple of days. they were here, in our house, and now…they’re not. and the house itself seems as if it’s emptier, for him, no longer sufficient just to us three. i ask him if he feels sad, and he says yes, and there are hugs, and extra webcam visits with New Brunswick, but still…for the first time, i am watching my child cope with the feeling of loss, with the sadness of not having someone you love nearby.

and i know this is a gentle way to learn, and i am grateful. but the high, sweet voice that calls out “Wama!” as if he really believes that maybe we’ve just been hiding her under the cushions all week? it reminds me how much crushing it takes to make it to adulthood, makes me want to lay my body down over him and keep him safe from hurt, keep him small like this, where the saddest thing he’s ever known is that his wonderful Grandmaman and Grandpapa went home for a bit, and will be back next month.

and makes me wonder, too, just a bit, if i was ever that small, and that innocent.