So when we heard that Daisy and Ramesh were coming back to India for a month we were so glad. Not happy for the reason that they came - Ramesh's mother is very ill and on dialisis now because of her failing kidney - but happy-hopeful-sure that we would see them all - especially our littlest cousin/nephew Shofar who none of us Thane Eichers have met yet.
And then came the news that Shofar was not well and that Ramesh's mother continued to be very sick. And on top of it airfares within the country have returned to the land of the ridiculous. And so the hopes of meeting started to evaporate.
But meet we did.
This was the proverbial 'flying visit.'
The family touched down in Mumbai just before 9 PM on Thursday night. We were still stuck in traffic on a soggy monsoonal evening. But by the time we reached the airport it was our turn to wait as Daisy and Ramesh were waiting for a stroller that the airline had said they would get on arrival in Mumbai - but which had been sent off to the International airport.
The long-awaited family emerged from the Arrivals gate at 9.30 PM. That gave us just over an hour. A precious hour. To be together. The bitter-sweet experiences of transience.
We had earlier hoped to take them to our dear friends John and Nalini's home. But the impending reporting time of 11 PM was now too close to us.
So we ducked into a temporary living room - local Starbucks cafe - which was blessedly empty.
And so sister caught up with sister. And cousin met cousin. Last time Frankie was the oldest cousin and an only child. This time she still is the oldest one - and a very graceful loving one at that - but has been joined by young Shofar!
Enoch got some Auntie-time with Daisy Auntie!
He certainly has grown since the last time we met as families.
How do you cram catching up on years of separation into just a few minutes?
Well, you start with the basics. How is school? What are you studying now? What is work like? How are your parents.
It seems unreal to be with your loved ones - and knowing that in just a few minutes they will be whisked away.
But how much better to meet and talk and pray and enjoy each other - than not to do so at all!
And so fortified by coffee and cake and various sandwiches we plunged in and enjoyed each other.
This young man certainly charmed us.
We have not seen him as a baby - only got emailed pictures of his growing up so far - and now here he is - all of four years old.
Shofar is quite an active boy - but here we are meeting for the first time. He is quiet and a bit withdrawn.
He looks at us carefully, sizing us up. We also keep darting glances over to him. Who does he resemble more? We see sparks of Daisy in him. We detect parts of Ramesh too.
We have a gift with us.
Shofar shyly takes it. Being a boy it is opened pretty quickly. And being a boy it is deployed almost immediately.
In the old days photo-albums would be carted along and opened up.
Today mobile phones do the trick. I think we must be the last folks on the planet not to have smart phones - but that doesn't stop us from looking into the pictures on those of others! And so we were taken to Pondicherry to see Ramesh's parents who had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary during Daisy and Ramesh's visit this time.
And then the witching hour came. It was time for Ramesh family to get into a taxi and head over to the International Airport.
A waiter was pressed into service to get all of us in the frame.
And then there were the two sets of cousins. How much we wished Shofar and Enoch could have had more time together. They were just starting to play catch in the Starbucks when we corralled them for this shot.
How achingly sad to meet this amazing young woman - and just have the barest glimpse of her personality before we have to say the goodbyes.
And then the short walk out to the taxi.
Enoch and Shofar maximized their time together.
Our joint families walked over to our latest parting of ways.
A last round of hugs.
A request for us to visit the US.
A last look at each other.
When will we meet next.
It's God-be-with-you then.
- I hold it true, whate'er befall;
- I feel it when I sorrow most;
- 'Tis better to have loved and lost
- Than never to have loved at all.