“Helloooooo, punkinheads!” my father-in-law bellowed as he opened the back door of our Honda CR-V. Like always, he fumbled with the car seat buckles he never quite mastered, eager to release his tiny granddaughters and hug them close, celebrating their much-anticipated arrival. Like always, he joked and kissed, tickled, and tossed them high in the air until they giggled hysterically. Like always, he giddily shuffled around, ushering them in through the garage door and straight to the pantry where promised treats of Cheez-Its and saltwater taffy awaited them, carefully tucked away in their designated wicker baskets.
And, like always, my husband and I made eye contact, smiled, and shook our heads. That Boppa. He just couldn’t help himself. He loved our little girls so big, he had to meet them right out in the driveway every single time.
Until he didn’t.
When we pulled up in the driveway to my in-laws’ house just a few days after Christmas this year, we were met with a deafening silence. My husband turned off the ignition, and we made eye contact and tried to smile as tears streamed down both of our cheeks. It was our first visit since he unexpectedly passed away just a week prior. We expertly unbuckled the car seats ourselves, picked the girls up out of their car seats, and carried them up the stairs to knock on the front door.
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That Boppa. He loved us all so big when he was here, his void felt palpable, unmistakable, and just utterly heart-wrenching.
You see, we all yearn for that meet-you-in-the-driveway kind of love.
The kind of love that drops everything and meets you exactly where you are, no matter the weather.
The kind of love that fumbles sometimes, but doesn’t let imperfection get in the way of the good.
The kind of love that just can’t wait to hold you close and hear you laugh—really laugh. The truest, best kind of belly laugh.
The kind of love that has your favorite treats at the ready just because they know it will make you smile.
The kind of love that practically bowls you over with its goodness, lighting up just knowing you’re in the room.
My heart breaks a little knowing that, as more time passes, our girls might not remember all the details of their grandfather all that well. After all, they’re only two and four. A year from now, they might not be able to recall the sound of the silly songs he sang to them, the exact taste of his famous spaghetti and meatballs he used to stash in our freezer when he came for a visit, or the hilarious look of disbelief on his face whenever someone asked him to change a diaper. They might even forget about the Cheez-Its and the saltwater taffy in that darn pantry.
But if there’s one thing I want them to know forever, it’s that they’ve experienced that meet-you-in-the-driveway kind of love.
The kind of love where you know you’re deeply cherished every moment you’re in their presence.
The kind of love that leaves an unmistakable void in your life when it’s gone.
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The kind of love that leaves you wanting to recreate it, to spread it to the people you love the most so they never doubt the way you feel about them—the way you deeply cherish them every moment they’re in your presence.
If you have someone in your life you love fiercely like I do, I hope you’ll join me in meeting them in your driveway the next time they come to visit.
And the time after that.
And the time after that, too.
Go ahead . . . bowl them over with your affection, even if it’s freezing cold or pouring rain or windy as all get-out. Put on your coat and just get out there like my father-in-law did.
It might matter more than we’ll ever know.