Leaving Day

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On Tuesday it will be one year since Mom’s open heart surgery. Since that week my sister Cheryl and I have made several trips to Mom and Dad’s, they have come up once, and this past weekend Rick and I went down to spend the 4th of July with them. Over the past year the day we say goodbye to them has become what I call “Leaving Day”. It is the bittersweet morning cup of coffee at their very familiar kitchen table, followed by a few “are you sure you have everything”s, and hugs and kisses and “I love you”s with lumps in our throats. This week last year, Cheryl and I sobbed for several miles before I distracted myself with my camera and corny text messages to and from Dad. And although it’s gotten easier, I always end up feeling very sad and lonely for Mom and Dad once I get home.

Our visits have come to be a lifeline for me. A lifeline to my childhood, to my adolescence, and to the magical time of falling in love with my husband and starting our lives together. Our visits are even a lifeline to the addition of each of my children to our family. These are the people who were there. These are the people who bore witness to my life at each juncture. On their walls are photos of Rick and I before we were married, on Dad’s sailboat with our hair wind-blown and all smiles, pictures of my sister and I each pregnant with our babies, photos of each of our kids when they were babies, and at various stages of their growing up years. In one bedroom is a picture of Abbie in her cheer uniform and Josh and his Senior prom date. In the hallway are 8X10s of each of my siblings and I in our order, first Cheryl’s, then Ken’s, mine, Tim in his Army uniform, and Ronnie. On top of their TV is a picture from Caleb and Hannah’s wedding, and on Mom’s fridge are photos of their great-grandchildren, and I secretly smiled inside knowing they would soon have pictures of Nora there.

I come home with a sense of belonging. I see things in my Mom that I recognize in myself, and I see in Abbie, a need for time alone, and yet deep need to be in relationship, and find answers to why I am the way I am. In my Dad I see a sense of humor and curiosity that I recognize in myself and in my sons. This trip, we went through bags and bags of old photos and in each picture of Mom and her twin sister Diane, I guessed which one was which based on the girl that looks just like me. Ironically, I look more like my Aunt Diane, so I am always wrong in my guess, but there it is again: The connection to the past, to the people I came from.

I sent a text to my brother Ken, who is still there at Mom and Dad’s and said “have a glass of wine with Dad for me tonight”. He said he would. I picture them outside in the screened-in tent in the back yard with the mosquito fans on the table, and the tikki torches lit, and remember today is Leaving Day, and although I feel sad and lonely for Mom and Dad, I come home feeling whole again. The bearing witness of each other’s lives from our first days until now settles me, gives me the sense of having “home” wherever I go.

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