I stop by the house to change out of my work clothes and there he is, sitting on the couch in the office, sipping a beer, handsome as ever. The one who lives in Australia, the one whom I didn't expect for several days, the one who smiles and says, "hey mom." It might sound mawkish, but it's as if a levee gave way, and joy flooded my soul. I grab him up in an overly maternal hug. The dog is jealous and almost knocks me over. We land on the couch and enter into one of those condensed conversations, sort of like speed dating, except with your mom.
"How are you?"
"Why are you here so early?"
"You look thin?"
"Are you hungry"
There are many ways we hold each other captive, I've used the holy book, loitering laws, and guilt to anchor my kids to home. I realize when they are free so am I but I don't have to like it. The emotion etched in his eyes is hard to identify so I watch him more like a vulture than a hawk. He's exhausted from a fifteen hour flight, four hour train ride to Campbell, and a mile walk to the house. A backpack is sitting at his feet and it reminds me of the impermanence of his visit.
Anxious to meet the twins, he pushes off sleep, and we jump in the car. I let him knock on Julie's door and I'm ridiculously tickled by the smile that hits her face when she realizes it's Tony. I state the obvious like a blubbering idiot, "He's here, he's here." The best part is Audrey, who reaches for her absentee uncle with pudgy little arms, wrapping them so tightly around his neck she shakes, "I missed you Tony, I missed you." My feelings exactly. He smiles, I cry.
Sitting in the play room, Tony holds the wee ones for the first time, he seems smitten, but that is pure conjecture. Holding them like footballs he gauges their weight. They do the sibling thing automatically, catching up in code, because I'm standing in their space. I broke that code years ago, so I watch, listen, hold tight to the image of adult children engaging with one another.
My two greatest joys are coming together in one place. My children and the lake house. I'm giddy with excitement on the long drive to the lake. The kids arrive in batches and soon the house of full of young people. The energy so vibrant I want to put it in a vase and adore it. The longer I live the more "I surrender to ambivalence, to happy contradictions, and seeming inconsistencies in myself and almost everything else, including God," says Father Rohr. I'm already counting the days that I have left with my adventurous son, pushing off the lump that keeps forming in my throat, squeezing the shit out of my heart. Maybe this time he'll stay...
I notice the snack jars are empty on a stroll through the kitchen and somewhere deep inside I think this is a reflection of my love. It's irrational but true. I feel stretched, close to breaking, my love is imperfect. The weekend at the lake, special dinners, endless coffee, time with the grands, scanning for movies, simple talks, hanging on patio, furtive glances, and companionable silence pass quickly until we come to the last. I have this running internal dialogue where I talk myself out of bawling over and over again. I tell myself he's happy, he's successful, he living the dream. I'm so proud. Why can't he do this from home?
Like Pavlo's dog, I don't exactly salivate, but my eyes always leak every time we say good-bye. God refuses to barter with me for more time, so I pray, be safe, be well, and miss my imperfect love.
I rarely have the right answers, but I persist, and I do it surrounded by good people. It's the best I can do. In the Queendom of Cheryl, I strive for that which is good and true, but as you know these are relative terms. When I had children I never properly prepared for their independence, I thought they would live under my wing forever, sue me. Nora Ephron says it best, "There are things in life that I wish I could fix. But never mind."
I'm Living in the Gap, drop in anytime.