It’s cold in my mom’s Wisconsin driveway. The wind is blowing across the field to the right of her house and I’m on my way back to my home in Florida and I do not have on a coat.
This time leaving is harder than all of the times before it. My mom is a tiny thing who fits against me like that missing coat when she leans in for her hug. She holds me tight, really tight, and asks how many months it will be before I come back.
I can see my dad sitting in his chair by the front window as we stand there. I have already said goodbye to him and his wheelchair and the fake leg that he rarely puts on anymore “because he’s just so tired.” He hugged me hard too and told me how much he hates to say goodbye. “I know, dad,” I whispered in his ear, “Me too.”
My mom feels as if she is shrinking as we stand there. My partner and I have painted walls, lifted furniture, carried groceries, taken them to a wedding, out to dinner, and laughed every night at the kitchen table. But there will be more to do tomorrow, in a week, a month, and my mom is so tired. I can see it in her eyes and I wish I could lift her up and carry her to a year-long spa.
The night before I said goodbye to my son and my daughter. I left them at the university filled with turkey, dozens of hugs, a little cash and a very, very quick dash away so they would not see me fighting back tears as I fell into the car and drove away.
I don’t start to cry until I am 30,000 feet over Illinois. I can still feel my mom hanging onto me and when I put my hands on my shoulders, where her hands rested so long, I feel as if she is still leaning into me. When I blink for a few seconds I see my daughter lost in her new world, my son heading out the door to meet friends. They are happy. They are living. They are okay.
But that still does not erase the ache of distance. It does not mean that all of them – my mother, father, son and daughter – are not the first and last things I think about every single day. It does not mean that I do not sometimes just sit here in this chair with my head in my hands and and wish for the sound of the slamming door and someone yelling , “Mom, are you up there?”
It’s all part of life and growing and letting go. I know this. This is the stuff I write about every day. It’s also the stuff that makes my heart siwrl because I love so much and because I am loved so much.
My mom will be glad to know I am already looking into plane tickets so I can check in on them in a few months. My daughter will be glad to know I can get her down here right after her birthday.
Neither of them, I think, will be as glad about that news as Kris Radish.