Saying goodbye

You asked what it was like to put our youngest on the plane for 4 months in East Africa.  Sad.  Scary. Lonely, even though her father and I share this challenge.

We’re both eating like bears getting ready for a Wyoming winter (I’ve put back on 9 of the pounds I lost for my high school reunion.) I’ve scarcely exercised and, at the same time, gone back to falling asleep on the couch and going to bed sometime between 3 and 4 a.m.

Our intrepid adventurer is second from the right here on a middle school safari to Colorado when her mother obsessed about icy ledges and cranky bears.

In short, in the first two weeks of this verrrrrrry long semester I’ve quit taking care of myself and my partner. What kind of sense does that make? Perhaps, just perhaps, even though I’ve spent years saying I don’t want my obit to read that my three daughters are in Boston, Baltimore and “of the home,” I don’t really mean it.

I want the care and company of my children, especially the sunny youngest. I want them here at holidays, here when I want to go to the movies, here when I fix supper. I want them young and dependent (while not really needing anything from me). I want, I want, I want — the mantra of the (food-) addicted. I don’t want to feel so alone.

We tried so hard to be cheerful during her last week at home before take-off. When she would lose something in the tangle that is her personal space, I would tell myself that I wouldn’t miss the drama  of constantly looking for stuff (like I don’t do that enough on my own!).

But I knew better than to listen to me. I knew I’d miss being able to pick up the phone and hear her chirpy voice (although we did talk to her for 25 minutes this past Saturday but Skyping, video or calling, is unpredictable to say the least). Even though we didn’t often make the 7-hour drive to her campus, I think we both miss knowing we could do that if we wanted.

We’re proud to have raised — with help — a strong, independent young woman. But did she have to be so strong and independent?

I think about counting the days until December 15, the date of her 36-hour return flight. But an actual number of days seems even more daunting (and more real) than  “a semester.”

I think about how happy she is, conquering her own fears, making her way in a completely different culture in a very different language. Come on: Who(m) am I kidding? What matters to the narcissist, the addict, is how happy I am!

But all recovering addicts know that relying on anyone/-thing outside ourselves is ultimately an empty premise (anything aside from our Higher Power, whatever it may be). We are the ones who can experience our sadness, turn it over in our hands like a shiny stone, tuck it away and go on, aware of it and strengthened by it. Self-control is just that — reliance on self and all that means.

Aw, nuts. I don’t really want to be stronger, thinner, fitter. I want to be dependent on everyone around me. I don’t want to be sad or hungry or tired or missing the blithe spirits that were my young children.

In the words of an actor I once interviewed on set in Wilmington: “Life is hard, and then we die.” Or, in the words of author Anne Tyler: “People imagine that missing a loved one works kind of like missing cigarettes…The first day is really hard but the next day is less hard and so forth, easier and easier the longer you go on. But instead it’s like missing water. Every day, you notice the person’s absence more.”

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2 thoughts on “Saying goodbye

  1. Ah, again, I can identify!!! I love your talent in expressing yourself, your desires and your struggles!! You must be told, though, that I HAVE discovered you CAN eat ice cream in the shower…it’s all about adapting and commitment!!! Luv to you and your sojourner soon to be back with you! 🙂

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  2. First, I have to say how excited I am to be able to read your work again! It’s been a long time! Second, I am so thankful that you and your family chose to spend some of your last moments before Hannah left for Africa with my James clan and me ! It is truly an extra special blessing when one of my former students and her family become lifelong friends! Though I know my job is to get Anna ready for the real world where she no longer needs her parents, I have a feeling that will be harder for me to accept when the time comes and I definitely see it coming!! I look forward to following your blog on a regular basis! Take care and keep in touch.

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