30 July 2008


"So, help me if you can
I've got to get
back to the house at Pooh corner by one.
You'd be surprised there's so much to be done,
count all the bees in the hive,
chase all the clouds from the sky.
Back to the days of
Christopher Robin and Pooh."

And that is exactly where I am today. Wednesday. In two days, my son will move to West Virginia. Today I am thinking of him, remembering mental snapshots, and about every ten or fifteen minutes, I get this HUGE lump in my throat. You know, the kind that reminds you that tears are a breath away if you're not careful. I don't know how much longer I can go on being careful. I want to cry. I really do and I'm not a person given easily to tears at all. There have been times when I wish that I could cry, but today, tears are threatening at every turn.

I already miss Justin. I was on my way home from work this past Monday, to collect three cats and take them for their vet appointments and rabies vaccinations, and suddenly this car appeared beside me, honking, and there was Justin. At the intersection of College and Shipyard. Smiling. Laughing. Passing me by in the dust.

He beat me home with minutes to spare. We started corralling the cats and he drove Felix, Magellan, Princess and me to the vet and took each one in, separately, handling it all with great finesse. I laughed and only suffered three small puncture wounds on my arm because Magellan was a little nervous.

As I was waiting to pay the bill, one of the staff asked me how I was going to handle having Justin move away. I looked at her and smiled and said, "not well.". She laughed. I couldn't have been more serious.

This is going to be tough. I mean, I have a HISTORY with this kid! I knew him before anyone else, except for God. He used to swim inside of me, punch my ribs and do somersaults and it took 2 1/2 days of back labor to coax him out. We know each other well.

Sunday Night, at about 10:00 PM, he cajoled me into going to see "Stepbrothers" at the movies. He didn't have to twist my arm. We rode in his Cobra Mustang and I don't believe he went below 70 the entire way. He whipped that car around, changed gears effortlessly and I held on for dear life. He looked over at me and with an impish grin said, "Mom, we need one great last adventure before I move, right?".

We have had some seriously crazy adventures, Justin and me. The movie was silly and funny and perfect for people grappling with serious stuff like moves hundreds of miles away. On the way back home, he said, "Listen, you got the best deal. You had me for the first 21 years!".

It's true, I have been privileged to be close for 21 1/2 years. I am just so grateful for that. But at this particular moment, it's not soothing my separation anxiety.

I can't even fathom, this Wednesday before his big move, how much I am going to miss him. I am grateful for e-mail and cell phones and text messages, but that's not the same. It's just not the same at all. I want hugs. Justin has always been the affectionate one, the sensitive touchy feel guy, introspective, never arriving or leaving without a generous and heartfelt hug and kiss on the cheek. That's hard to do from West Virginia. What am I supposed to do?

I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm to be grateful that this is a very positive, happy opportunity. He will, after all, be under the bright tutelage of his father. He will learn so much and be among family and have the chance to explore a whole new world (Justin was born in Amarillo, Texas - the only one among us who is not a native WV'ian). He will also have Stephanie with him, who is now his fiancee. He will be in my old stomping ground, the area where I was raised and spent the first 25 years of my life.

It's not like he's going into the service. He's not bound for Afghanistan or Iraq. He's not headed to a medical center in a faraway town for a bone-marrow transplant or an experimental clinical trial. He is heading into a great future. I'm beyond thankful for all of that, truly I am. But I have to tell you, I am selfish. I am just so selfish because, left to my own devices, I would keep him close to me and I can't do that. I raised both he and Katie to grow up, spread their wings beyond their comfort zone, find passions and then have the tenacity and guts to take on the world. I didn't raise shrinking violets and neither of them are remotely timid.

We've lived all over the US. I've taken them on vacations to many unique places. A few years ago the three of us hopped a plane and visited France for a week. We've shared a cruise together. Poked around the Islands of the Bahamas. We've witnessed space shuttle launches, opened and closed Disneyland (California), Disney World (Orlando) and Euro Disney (Paris). We've ridden space mountain more times than I can count. We've jumped into pools, streams, fountains and oceans in our clothes. We've brought home strays of every species imaginable and raised mice for the snake collection he once proudly tended, until he discovered skateboarding which he ultimately gave up when he happened on Mustangs which coexisted nicely with his awareness of girls.

Together with Katie, we made up stories on dark stormy nights and read Edgar Allen Poe. We've walked the floor with ear infections, waited anxiously in emergency rooms for stitches and I've been called for school conferences more than once because he wasn't "doing his best work". We cried together when my marriage broke up. We've argued over both stupid and really serious things. We've slammed doors, screamed at each other and said things in anger we never came close to meaning.

I've been suckered into all kinds of schemes and scenarios and bought what he was peddling more times than I can count, even with a calculator. I've stayed up all night worrying when he didn't come home at the hour he promised and I've been filled with rage when he didn't tell me the truth. Justin has also personally, on even more times than I can count, exhibited a level of compassion both toward me and others, that has literally taken my breath away.
Out of all those things, what I remember most keenly are the times when he's taken my breath away. Those times far outnumber everything else.

I am proud to say though, I really did stand my ground when he wanted to adopt a caiman and I was always firmly against adding a ferret to the family. You pick your battles, right?

You know, they never tell you this stuff when you are about to give birth and you lumber into Lamaze Class. They cover such inconsequential things - contractions, labor, transition, epidurals, what to take to the hospital, how to bathe the baby, when you can expect to light a fire and burn your maternity clothes and stuff like that.

From where I sit, with a daughter who will be turning 25 on the 26th of August and a son who will be hitting 22 on the 21st of November, that pre- and -post natal era feels like it lasted about as long as it takes to blink my eyes. Of course, at the time, it seemed urgent, serious and some of it was terrifying to consider.

What they don't tell you in Lamaze class and, to be fair, what is impossible to convey, is the heart investment of the entire experience. I never knew I could deeply love and cherish anything (and I've had some great dogs!) as much as I have adored every facet of being a Mom. I mean, part of me wishes I had known all this stuff back in the day, but in reality, it would probably have been far more of a hindrance and I'm sure God knows it and worked all the logistics of the process out, but I have to testify that no matter where I go, what I do, whatever I may achieve or own or brush up against, it will never, ever come close to what raising a little girl and a little boy has given me. It is, in fact, an entity all unto its own. It is so intermingled into my being, the sheer depth, the strength and resilient durability of the parental bond.

God surely knew what He was doing in THAT department because there have been a few times when I thought...what the heck are we doing here and does someone have a manual or is there a service that could finish raising these kids until they're the more reasonable and responsible age of, oh, say 30? God knows that love paves over the pot holes and rough patches, and God knows He is right.

But "those" moments breeze by and before you know it, the kids are back in your good graces and you find yourself ecstatically devoted and signing on for the next exciting and improbable chapter of the craziest book in the world. And the most unbelievable part of it all is when you're on the page where "
Kids grow up and move to a new town", you tearfully, wistfully pine, you so seriously wish you could start that book over and write it all again. Even the hair-raising parts which are generously sprinkled throughout.

This...is going to be tough. Painful. Definitely hard to swallow.

This is...life. Wouldn't you just know those two would pick the times I said, "You've got to try! You can be ANYTHING and go ANYWHERE if you just set your head to it and if you want it bad enough!"

That's just so like them. Selective listening. You really can't trust them.

I feel as though I resemble my kids when I would take them to the pediatrician for vaccinations or flu shots. "Wait, I"m not ready! Wait, please, wait! Give me a minute...not yet!!!!!!". And of course, the needle had to break the flesh and deliver it's payload. It was always going to sting, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, and no amount of preparation could change that.

No, no, no, no, no! I am not ready for Justin to move. But if he postponed it a few days, I wouldn't be any more prepared in a week, two weeks, six months or a year. It's going to sting, but we have to get on with it. His future is calling and it's time to answer the damn phone, load up the moving van and head for those ridiculous hills.

People ask me if it was like this when Katie left home, when she made her way to Manhattan in May 2006. In a way it was and in another way it wasn't. You see, Katie was born with a plan. Spend anytime around Katie and you just realize that she has a list, steely determination and a fierce independence and no time for tears. I love my daughter with the same passion that I do my son and I have a great deal of respect for the way she tackles the streets of NYC, new jobs, her fear of flying and any obstacle silly enough to get in her way. She's amazing and it's not that she doesn't have a heart, she simply doesn't wear it on her sleeve.

Justin and I, however, aren't like that at all. Our entire shirts are covered in hearts. It's just the way we are. Sometimes, I am stunned by just how much like me he is, not simply in appearance, but in temperament, mannerisms, thought processes, behavior and quirks. That apple didn't far fall from this tree.

I want to walk outside and scream at the very top of my lungs, to no one in particular, "MY SON IS MOVING AWAY AND I AM REALLY GOING TO MISS HIM AND I AM HURTING BIG-TIME RIGHT NOW!!!!!", but I haven't been at this office all that long and people might talk. Besides, he just called and we're having lunch at his old work place in a few minutes. I can't be late. He's buying!

I'm sure I'll cry on the way back to my office, and I'll cry tomorrow at random times and don't even ask me about Friday. This weekend is going to be rough and I know that. My friend Sharon called me yesterday, "just to check on you. I know this isn't easy.", and she does know it because she's watched one of her sons move to San Diego and the other one to Lake Tahoe. She knows the landscape of where I am headed and she will be right there and cry right along with me and then she'll talk very sternly and tell me - "Enough - let's go to the beach and eat chocolate and drink tea.". Good friends do things like that. I love her. I love all of my friends. I'm crazy about my family. I adore my cats. I have the best dog in the entire world. My kids? They not only have my heart, they are my heart.


Beyond all this missing stuff, trust me, it's not lost on me how spectacularly blessed we all are. For as much as this is going to EXCRUCIATINGLY "sting", and you better know it will, I also know that these tears spring from good things. They spring from love, hope, golden opportunities, and at least a thousand or so blessings. I mean, if you have to cry, this is as happy of an event as you could hope for to sob over. There isn't any undue worry or fear. I know deep inside, that this sadness is of the happy variety and I must keep that in mind. No one is sick, estranged or at wits end or the thousand and one issues that can come up that truly can rob you of your sanity, serenity and sleep. I'll adjust and we'll slide into a new "normal", carve out a new groove - grateful for all that we have, always mindful of how well off we sincerely are, and hopeful for a bright future. We'll make new memories in different cities. <I practice sounding convincing when I say this. So far, I'm not really buying it.>

But in the meantime, I really do plan to cry a bit. I can sense Katie rolling her eyes and I expect a call at some point next week from her telling me to knock it off, grow up and get busy writing. She's not heartless, she will at least allow me the weekend to wallow. And then she'll say something really wise like, "How do you expect to meet a sailor with red eyes?"

Good point.

It's "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel. I should be happy, right?