I've sent another child off halfway around the world, this time to Kansas. He was in Spain just a few weeks ago, visiting a friend from North Carolina. I missed him then, too.
He spent much of his last days with friends. That's what youngsters do. I did it myself at that age — assumed my family would always be there.
I wasn't sure if or when it would hit him that he was leaving us as well. Yesterday morning, on the way to the car, he dropped his bags and hugged me so tight I couldn't maintain my composure.
Suddenly, it was a four-year-old's arms around my neck, even though they were attached to an almost six foot tall frame. His life flashed before my eyes — his first step, his first word, the first time his tiny hand patted me on the back as I held him.
One would think goodbyes get easier, but there is a completely different set of physics at work. When the kids were babies, I was often told to let them cry else they'd get spoiled. The urge to hold has never gone away from me. As a young mother I tried so hard to ignore them but I just couldn't, and I didn't, and I haven't, to this day.
His sister left home for California not long ago. At the airport, she cried into my shoulder. I cried into her hair. She smelled the same then as she did when she was just a few hours old.
Her tears weren't like that of a grown person, rather of a small child. Tiny tears. By the time I got home, I found myself doing what I've only read about.
I wept, uncontrollably.
I thought life was so hard when the kids were young — and it was hard, because I was young, too. It's funny how things that exhaust us change over time.
Seems like everything I worried about years ago isn’t that important nowadays. It was a good thing I had the strength and energy to run after two toddlers going in two different directions. It's a different kind of energy I need now.
They're still going in two different directions, but way back then I could catch them. Not so anymore.
When they call from wherever they are, I'm as excited as a young schoolgirl getting a call from a boy. How goofy am I?
Earlier today, I ran about the house cleaning, doing laundry, washing windows. Nothing worked to take my mind off my heart. I am reminded of my grandmother's best advice, "Don't just do something, stand there."
So for the rest of the day I just stood there. I watered the plants outside our building. My garden is the most pathetic one on the entire base (it's not a big base at all) but it's mine and I like it.
I stood there on the tennis court and only hit the balls that came right to me. Much to my surprise, most of them did. It wasn't much exercise for the body, but it was great for the mind.
And I stood there on the corner of the street and watched traffic go by.
A few people honked. Isn't that strange? It couldn’t have been a woo-hoo-look-at-you kind of honk; I'm not the looker I used to be. It was more like those few knew why I was standing there – to look at them – and they just wanted to acknowledge it.
I hollered out "Honk" back at them, you know, in keeping with the spirit of things.
Ah, sweet life, bitter life, salty, spicy, tart, blechy, speeding by faster with each passing year life.
This is why my Grandmother wore brilliant purple clothes, large silver beads around her neck, and big feathered hats to go grocery shopping.
This is why she took us kids to the park for scream-sing contests — because life is just too short to wear jeans everyday and we should holler out while we all still can. With grace, without shame, and in full-on technicolor.
Life is indeed a banquet. Having to send my children off and away, I feel even better than I used to about giving them a little more cake and a little less brussels sprouts.
As for me, I'm not eating anymore asparagus. I'm heading straight for the chocolate covered strawberries!