Monday, July 4, 2011
Step by step this process of relocating to the other side of the country moves forward. We mark the milestones one by one and try to savor each one. It’s been a month of ‘lasts’, with more to come. My youngest son finished his last days of fourth grade, in a building that has been his academic world since kindergarten. My middle son finished his first year of high school in a building where both of his older siblings received diplomas. Our oldest son walked across a graduation stage in a cap and gown that are already packed in a moving box.
I said ‘see ya laters’ to co-workers who feel more like friends. My poor husband has said endless goodbyes, as he’s built a large network of professional acquaintances during our time in New York. And then today, one more huge step, flinging us into this new life that’s on the horizon. Very early this morning, before the sun even broke the horizon, I drove this man I love to the airport and said my tearful goodbyes. He is flying off to start his first chapters of our life in Colorado, as he starts his new job this week.
It surprised me how big that one goodbye felt. I struggled to maintain my composure as I gave him a last hug. We tried to make small talk, to crowd out the suffocating reality of what was about to transpire. Then he turned and made his way through the security lines, slipping off his shoes, emptying out his pockets, and raising his arms on cue.
At that moment I couldn’t help but think about how attached I’ve become to that man. I met him in a college dorm, in the early spring of 1987, having no idea he would become my life cheerleader. We had mutual friends and slowly found ourselves spending more time without them. Long lunches in the cafeteria became my favorite part of the day, as we discussed everything from religious beliefs to childhood experiences. It wasn’t romantic dinners at fancy restaurants that won me over. It was a patient listening ear, while eating turkey and cheese sandwiches off a plastic cafeteria tray.
After a few years of sharing friends, dreams, and travel adventures, he showed up in my dorm room one Sunday night, wearing a red pull over jacket that smelled of campfire smoke. One of the things that attracted me to him was his love of the outdoors, and that woodsy smell did more for me than any cologne ever could. A few hours later he proposed, and I was wise enough to say yes.
We had spent that weekend apart. I had to go home to help out my ill mother, and he had been on a camping retreat with our friends. As I lay next to my mother, who was recuperating from back surgery, I surprised even myself, as tears rolled down my face when I told her how much I missed not being with him, even for that one night. I think I knew at that moment that I needed this man for the long haul.
The ‘yes’ had come easily, when the ring was presented, 24 hours later.
There was a wedding, and more schooling, and then came children and jobs. A decade passed by, then another. A change in jobs led us to several cross country moves and more years rolled by. Life was not always easy, but we found our way together. We both lost a parent early on, and we almost lost a child. We’ve survived a decade (so far) of raising teens and what seemed like endless years of changing diapers. But we’ve done our best to cling to the friendship that started it all. We both adore our children, but we both understand that they are separate from us. The ‘us’ will always stand on its own and have its own place.
The ‘us’ is what keeps us sane.
So now we come to this place, where circumstances dictate a separation. In every other move we’ve made, we’ve all gone together. But his time is different. This time the house has not sold, and plans had to change. As we sit and wait for the special family, who will love this house as much as we have, to show up, the calendar page flips to July, and the new job calls. And I find myself at an airport, saying goodbye to this man I love. We will be apart for at least six weeks. We’ve never been apart for more than one week, and now the calendar will flip pages once more, before I see him again.
In all of the planning and scheduling, I knew, in my head, that this separation was coming. But it was all on paper. This past weekend I found myself in a lawn chair in New Hampshire, telling my sister-in-law our plans, and she turned to me and said, “You’re going to be apart for SIX weeks?” The tone of her question left a lump in my throat. Six weeks. Yeah, six weeks.
The reality of those words sunk in.
He left the family party a day early, to come home and pack. I stayed back to camp one more night with the kids. I missed him even that night, knowing our real goodbyes were coming in mere hours. The next morning we drove home, and I purposefully didn’t take off his red pull over jacket, that I’d borrowed for our camping trip.
It smelled of campfire smoke.
And this time I wanted to be the one who showed up, smelling of the outdoors, and proposing my love for a lifetime.