goodbyes give me wobbles
goodbyes have always been bumpy for me. the first one i remember was me sitting on the concrete stoop in a garage in bloomfield hills, michigan. my papa had just pulled his turquoise blue ford falcon out of the slot where he parked, and was backing down the driveway. i was folded into a crouch on the stoop, swallowing back whole mouthfuls of tears.
i hated sunday nights when he drove away.
but he did so, every sunday night for six months. which, when you’re five, feels like forever and ever. he had a big job in a faraway place — chicago. and we hadn’t moved yet. so the time from sunday to friday night, when he’d pull back into the slot in the garage, open the door and bound into the house with all his dad-ness, it was as hollow a canyon as i’d ever known. on sunday nights, it seemed like we might never get to friday.
that early wiring, deep in the goodbyes department of my brain, it must have set me up for a lifetime of sparks firing, little explosions going off, when goodbyes were in the offing. because i’ve never gotten used to watching the people i love fade into the distance. certainly never gotten good at it.
and here i am smack dab in the middle of a big one. not the biggest ever. not the biggest i could imagine (for heaven’s sake, no one yet has invented a way to send a kid off to mars for ever and ever). but in the big-goodbye department, sending your kid halfway across the country, sending him off to law school, serious law school, knowing he likely won’t be back, not to live anyway, after two sweet sweet years that unfolded practically under your nose, well it’s big enough to give me wobbles.
the moving van is pulling up to his downtown apartment any minute. the texts are pinging at me even as i sit here typing: just took the sheets off the mattress, should i do a quick wash and dry before the movers take the last box? what about the pillows, bring in the car or load on the truck? hangers?
even from 14 miles away, i seem to be the answer mama. (and sure as could be, there’s a certain genre of question that to this day prompts me to dial my mama, certain she’s the repository of those things that mamas just know.)
we’re buffering this goodbye with one last week in which he’ll sleep here again. soon as our beloved friend jani, from germany, moves out, i’ll quick-change the sheets, and in will move the impending lawyer. (funny, even though he’s heading to law school, i’ve never before thought of him as a lawyer. law student, yes, but how in the world could i be old enough to be the mother of a lawyer?) then we’ll all pile in the old wagon, and point it east toward connecticut. which is where we’ll drop him off, help unpack piles and piles of boxes, then drive westward with one hollowed-out seat in the front, and plenty of tears in the back.
this goodbye is different, is sweeter, perhaps, than the one when we dropped him off at college, and he needed to figure out for the very first time who he was in the world without us in the shadows. this time, six years later, he has a pretty good sense of who he is, and a pretty good sense that we’ve figured out just where to stand in his life, close enough to always always listen, but not so close that all the moves aren’t his. he knows he’s stepping onto steep terrain, but i think — i pray — he knows he can make the climb.
he’s decidedly a grownup. moving into his first grownup apartment. complete with umbrella stand, i’ll have you know. a lovely one of blue-and-white porcelain, not unlike the one that stands sentry by our front door, one of several nods he’s making to the house where he grew up. bringing us with him, in some small way, even if only in the pot that will hold his drippy umbrellas.
last night, when i swung by his apartment to pick up one last load being shuffled to here, he decided to hop in the car as well. because, as usual, we were deep in conversation and he didn’t want it to end. and besides, he said, he felt like taking a walk. so we drove about eight miles north, and i dropped him off at an el stop, and he promised he’d only walk half of the way. but at midnight last night he was still walking along chicago’s lakefront, soaking up the city that birthed him, breathing deep all that he’s learned since he arrived on the scene 24 years ago.
he sent me this:
that sparkling city along the lake, it will always be his. always, always be home. and we will always, always, always, welcome him back. once we get through this next round of goodbyes.
are goodbyes hard for you?
and happy blessed bastille day birthday to my beloved across-the-way. xoxoxo
Oh Barbara, you are not alone in experiencing difficulty with goodbyes. Especially with our no-longer-so little ones. I’ll be sending thoughts of support from the East Coast… with wishes for the moments of joy to far, far outnumber the moments of sadness during this week before a goodbye.
bless your heart, and you might be closer to him in miles than i will be. which will draw me east time after time. so one of these times maybe i can make my way down baltimore way…….thank you for your heart thoughts. they matter. xoxox
Such a sweet story from the beginning when you were five!! Of course a quick flashback to meeting you at 5 in the kitchen at Carlisle!! Cute little you!! And now taking Will to law school!! I love your relationships with the 3 men in your life!! I’m thinking he is off to Yale law, your Will?? Congratulations!! Kisses xx
Sent from my iPhone
sweet sweet mar…….i think somewhere in the mahany photo files there is a picture of tommy tynan on the driveway on brierhill. the day we moved in. finally. and, yes, your guess on will is correct. i am shy about saying so. but that is why we’re heading to 06510, a ZIP code i now know by heart. xoxox
and so it goes. we own the pain of separation and we celebrate the independence and the joy our children derive as they grow. comfort being a goodbye here is a hello in another place. that the young man here is an even better man by being there. that the loving job of getting the young man to this good bye was done well and well done. that the best love is that love.
oh, sweet angel…..your words of wisdom are being chiseled in my heart as my eyes sweep across them. i thought of you as i was writing (and not just in the birthday wishes xoxo) as you’ve just transplanted a child, too. a woman, i should say. a beautiful brilliant woman to the lap of cambridge. as fine a place to sink some roots as i could imagine. maybe we’ll have to take a mama road trip. pennsylvania turnpike here we come!
Please remember me when he starts to look for summer jobs this winter.
Oh, he’s on his own in that department, but bless you for kindness!
Sometimes I think the goodbyes are the hardest parts of being a Mom.
they must be, non?
certainly, one of the hardest parts….
I can just see you there on the stoop, watching your sweet daddy backing out of the garage… Such a big goodbye each week for dear little five-year-old you…. And here you are now, facing another big goodbye, yet such a joyful one, too, because Will is turning his dream into reality. What a gift this is! Good thing a mama’s heart is elastic. It can stretch astonishing distances, even alllll the way to Connecticut. Reaching out to squeeze your hand as your darling boy settles into his new home. Blessings upon each of you! Sending all my love. xoxo
it was a big goodbye, and instead of steeling my heart, it just cracked it open. and you are right, this is a joyful goodbye, albeit a goodbye. it’s the prelude to goodbye that is always steepest for me. i know i’ll find my grounding again. a few tears will soggy my sleeves, but such is the flow of love……as long as he thrives, i will soar too….thanks for listening, dear amy, for offering your squeeze. i do love the chairs. xoxoxo
Reading this, I remember when my eldest child, my firstborn daughter, married her best friend and ventured off to be with him on new adventures that were not at my backdoor. I fell to pieces, cried a river of tears, moaned and wailed like a baby, knowing that her life course had been set and it wasn’t under my roof.
As parents, we raise our children to be adults one day … to be productive members of society, to be happy and to follow their heart. I remember a few years ago, a little wren built her nest within the wreath on my front door. We felt so fortunate to have a front row seat to watch all of the activity within that nest (it was just below the peephole so we could watch and not disturb it). We watched as the eggs hatched, as mama bird tended to her babies, and as they flew off, one by one, to be who they were born to be. I learned a lot from that mama … she would fly to the big tree just beyond my front door and would watch – from a distance – as her babies grew stronger and have the courage to fly away. I learned that, from a distance, I could still be an active part of my daughter’s life and cheer her on from my own ‘big tree’. That’ll preach, as they say.
Dearest darling bam … you and your beloved have done well – cheer him on to even greater things. From one mama bird to another … xoxox
ah, PJV, i love the wisdoms of the mamas who pull up here. leave it to you to have taken lessons from watching the mama wren. i’ll stake out my “big tree,” as you so finely put it. and love with all my heart. as i look to your beautiful firstborn, consider the multiples of joy that have unfolded since her leave-taking, it fills me with the knowing that those sorts of joy just might be ahead here too.
every day will bring a new lesson. for one, i intend to follow along in the learning of the law. i love the doors my boys open wide for me….
sending love. so so sweet to find you here on a glorious summer’s saturday. xoxo
I have learned that it is not goodbye, but “See you later.” In life-leavings as well as physical-death leavings. All “Until later!”
indeed. i will see if that can lift me across a few gulches. and how much harder it would be if we didn’t live in an age in which those crazy phones that keep us tethered didn’t in fact hold one or two blessings inside: keeping us in touch.
Oh, dear one…try to not look too far ahead. One breath at a time. We spend all those years raising them to be independent; then when they are … oy, our hearts. Like Amy, holding you close. xoxoxo
indeed, we think the day will never come. especially in the thickest parts–those newborn squawky evenings, toddlerhood when all day seems one big chase, adolescence when who knows which side is up–when we aren’t even sure if we’ll make it till the end of the day….and then The Day comes…..all along we’re striking for that fine line, filled with grace, where love lets soar, and doesn’t tether. a few tears, and a few fine hands to hold, and i’ll be all steady upright again. just the moving through the parting that gives me wobbles….
as i sit here typing i listen to the morning sounds, watch the sparrows fluttering mid-flight (i swear my sparrows this summer have been taking lessons from the hummingbirds; they seem to hover a lot these days), and i know i’m being held in arms far stronger and tenderer than i could ever hope for……
Loved reading this one because I too have been processing good-byes. Mine are more good-byes even when the person is still present. It has been difficult but I know their is holiness in there somewhere
i cannot imagine the pain of those goodbyes. and i believe in the holiness “in there somewhere.” sending gentle tender strengths. and thank you for coming to the table. xoxo