Wednesday, November 28, 2012

a place for saying good-bye




Every good-bye holds within it every other good-bye that's come before.  And maybe the good-byes yet to be.  I don't know.  But the idea is comforting -- grief enclosed in a matryoshka doll of connection. 

I've just driven to the airport holding hands with my Middlest.  We have talked ourselves out.  Her two brothers in the backseat look out the windows. 

Afterwards, driving back along the river, this landscape is even lovelier than it was on our way in.  The Feed & Seed store sign is poignant with nostalgia.  The rusty bumper of the truck parked along the highway -  beneath the orange autumn leaves  - above the shorn fields  - against the milky mountains swathed in snow and fog -- it all works together.  Plangent symphony of season's end. All oboes and viola.  We three coming back where we had been four before,  not bereft, but attuned to every note of good-bye in the landscape around us.  Vibrating to that frequency.

"I'm not crying this time," says Young.  "I thought I would be."

"You think you've learned something?" I ask him.

"Yeah."  And falls silent.

"That she can go and she can come back again?" which is what I think I'm learning.

"Maybe," he says.


Maybe we're not learning anything.  Maybe we're just driving back home.


Just a few months ago, when it was September and not November, we flew back home after leaving her behind at her new university.  The first morning home, I felt left behind. She had left laundry in the dryer.  I folded it, burying my face in it, tee-shirt by tee-shirt, breathing the lingering physical memory of her in, before anyone else had gotten out of bed.

All last summer she and I had been chipper and cheerful, a team together working to keep the boys on an even keel, with no time for thinking about saying good bye. With Fritz helping as he could when he was home, the two of us had kept our household through the hardest weeks after the adoption.  I had no emotions of my own that summer, too busy holding weeping faces tucked into my shoulder.  I rocked and sang, ran and joked, while our newly Youngest adjusted to life Among Us, adjusted to the coming and going and coming and going of these fun-making young women who were suddenly his sisters.  While our suddenly tall Young Son adjusted to being no longer the youngest, adjusted to the prospect of no sisters at home any more laughing over him like aspens, like apple trees generous and sweet.  Sisters at distance, still a grace in all our lives, but no present harvest.

I've been so lucky in the kindness these daughters have cast around themselves like dappled shade.  Beyond what I ever thought probable. 

In September, that first morning back after dropping Middlest off at her university, breathing the scent of her clothes left behind, the whole summer fell in on me, all the things I hadn't given time to feel, the loss of all it has meant to me to be the mother of daughters at home.  I sent myself to the shower and could hear from the kitchen, "Dad, I think Mom is in trouble.  Dad?  Is Mom okay?"

"Are you?"  he asked a few minutes later.

I gulped into Fritz' embrace, "I feel.  Gutted."  Because she who has been the center of so many of our orbits had gone away.

All the rest of September we kept singing
God be with you 'til we meet again  
May His counsels guide uphold you  
With His sheep securely fold you . . .
and when we sang, it would carry me back to the morning we left her, the last moment we actually stood together, all still in the same place, arms around each other in a small tight circle in the center of  her quiet campus, our voices lifting in the soft early air, singing just those words into each other's faces.

But now, driving home again, at the end of November, I am not broken.  In fact, I feel whole and full, present to the beauty of this place, awake to the sweetness of connection.   
 For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
Our Newest-and-Youngest will ask me to sing this song later tonight when I tuck him into bed.  "That song," he will call it, not remembering its name, "that you sang before Middlest left this morning."   
For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child.  
Friends on earth and friends above.

http://media.oregonlive.com/photogallery/photo/c0960fb57bd75a184cb4d779b78d8811.JPGOn the drive home now this afternoon, Young and Youngest look out the windows.  We will be almost home before Mid's plane leaves earth.

We drive into the town just south of where we live.  The four-story candle is standing where it has stood since we first drove here years ago looking for a place to live.   

Wind had blown the candle down last week.  Stubborn human insistence had hauled it back up again.

Young (no longer Youngest) Son spots the nearly full moon pale in the still-bright sky.  A flock of geese languidly wing below it.  We agree it would make a perfect autumn picture if you could somehow line them all up -- set them in space to stay -- but they keep moving as we drive past -- the snowy mountains pushing their heads up into frosty blue sky through the fog, the stubble fields flickering past, the autumn trees shifting, the almost full moon's ghostly face, the flock winging away.

A week ago when both girls, both Eldest and Mid, were still at home, we had meant to paint the windows for Christmas.  But time slipped away.

Time always slips away.

Last weekend when it was Eldest who slipped away before the sun was up, I rose to a sense of heaviness.  Not any emotion with an easy name, just weight.  Gravity having its full effect.

I think maybe there are electrons, or smaller invisible particles, that belong to my atoms but have become quantumly entangled with her atoms.  That are accidentally carried along she goes, when they go, when anyone I love goes away.  The ache of parting is the stretch those particles have to endure, reaching from here to an ever-widening there.

Middlest helped her brothers paint the windows after Eldest left.  They left some windows clear for Eldest to paint when she returns. Because there *will* be a time when everyone will be back together again in a few short weeks for Christmas, possibly our last Christmas all together.

Middlest helped me this morning chart out our next week on the hallway chalkboard.  "15 Days!"  she wrote on next Saturday, "Till Sisters come Home!"

I think there will be a part of me always driving home along this stretch of road.

As I drive, I drive through the first time we drove this road along the river when Eldest and Middlest were just two little girls asleep on each other's shoulders.  I drive through my own even earlier return to school at this same time of year in a colder valley, leaving my parents behind.  I drive through all the times I've driven away afterward, on roads all over the continent.  The last time I saw my best friend in Ohio, the ride home from my grandfather's funeral through the arid St. George valley he loved best in all the world.

I love it that my Middlest loves this stretch of sad towns along the river with a fierce tenderness I recognize.  Of all my children, she is the one who understands my feeling for this place.  We've debated if this attachment to this place comes from just knowing it so well. The cross-country hours she's spent running almost everywhere around here, on all these roads, have taught her all the hidden corners.  The smell of leaves at this corner, the unexpected view on this unexpected rise.  When I explore by bike, she's the only one who recognizes where I've been.

So driving through these woods today is like driving through our time together.  The roads we've known. 



The place we've made between us. A place of leave-taking and love to which, I think, we will always return.

3 comments:

Krystal said...

Just Beautiful.....

Lisa B. said...

This made a lump in my throat. I know whereof you speak. The weeks when everyone, or almost, is home--so very precious. Lovely.

NWG said...

Beautiful! It makes me weep for all those evanescent moments in life that have gone by.

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