Kodiak Island was never on our bucket list. Until the Coast Guard shipped our son there two years ago, I had never even heard of Kodiak. But now, we’ve made four trips; because that’s where the kids are. Where they go, we will follow. Getting to Anchorage is the straightforward, if longer, part of the journey. From there, reaching the island is an adventure; either an hour+ plane ride or getting to Homer (5 hours by car) and taking the ferry (14 hours); an option we have not yet attempted.
Visiting Kodiak in the winter is not for sissies. While sun glares off the snow and ice around Anchorage, the approach to Kodiak Island reveals clouds and rain. My son sees a lot of Alaska while enforcing maritime regulations, among other CG duties. He says it can be sunny everywhere else, but when he gets to Kodiak, it’s overcast and often raining. The clouds, winds and mountains of Kodiak can make aircraft landings hazardous. If the conditions are unacceptably risky, the plane returns to Anchorage; an anxiety producing uncertainty for travelers. We time our visit for the kids’ convenience, not when the Chamber of Commerce recommends; not unlike going to Tampa (their previous assignment) during hurricane season.. Even though we Skype weekly, nothing substitutes for the hugs, playtime and being another set of hands to help with grocery shopping, holding the baby to allow an uninterrupted shower or helping with cleanup and bedtime routines. Hugs outweigh uncertainties and expense. Plus, on this trip we celebrated the birth of Patrick.
A visit with the grandchildren reminds me of lines in the 1965 SOUND OF MUSIC song, “How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?” where a nun defends Maria, giggling, “I’d like to say a word in her behalf. [She] makes me laugh.”
Our grandchildren make me laugh. Not only do we get immersed in their daily rhythm of books and playtime; baths and prayers but we are able to sense the people they are growing into. And they say the funniest things.
- Grandpa, you look ridiculous. (Matter-of-factly after my husband showed the girls a ladybug headband he donned)
- No disasters [family motto from when our son was a child; now taught to his girls]
- GG, why does your face have creases?
- Newton [cat]! Knock it off. (The 5 year old scolds the cat for doing something he shouldn’t be doing — often)
- Isn’t Patrick handsome?
I can’t help smiling.
Given the temperatures and rain, much of our play time took place indoors. The Air Station hosted a festival in the hangar; with face painting and bounce houses to channel spring -break energy. A morning of snow allowed sledding, until snow turned to rain. The Coast Guard guesthouse playroom was a hit with the girls; a big room with Little Tykes climbing sets, toy kitchen, and blocks. New toys to discover and explore.
One afternoon, we ventured to the gym with Rachel on her bike and Allison in the stroller. We were about to cross the taxiway, when we heard the engines of a C-130 [Lockheed C-130 Hercules] approaching. Even though the caution beacon wasn’t lit yet, we waited. The plane appeared from the direction of the airport. The closer it got, the more we backed up, trying to avoid the wingtip (133’ wingspan). As the aircraft taxied past, we waved to the pilot, the girls’ Dad; before continuing our walk. We have never seen so many bald eagles (taking advantage of fisheries) or lived so close to a taxiway as in Kodiak.
Three children. A job with uncertain hours; whether from overnight duty or flying to remote parts of Alaska. The vagaries of weather and mission. Completing a graduate degree. Many responsibilities; not the least of which is child-rearing. Grandparents can be a safety net; occasionally letting the girls eat ice cream (with permission, of course). We aim to help; knowing that having guests disrupts the usual schedule. At the conclusion of prayers each night, everyone mentions the things they are thankful for. Today, I am thankful for a smile from Patrick before we left Kodiak; playtime and reading with the girls; attentive parents who are raising happy kids; and having the resources to visit wherever the Coast Guard sends them.
© Joan S Grey, 1 Apr 2016
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