Wednesday, August 7, 2013
The Day I Excitedly Awaited But Dreaded Awfully
H: Mom? Why are you sniffing? Are you a little bit sick?
A: Oh, no. I'm just crying a little bit because I'm going to miss everyone when we move to Colorado.
H: Oh. Yeah. I'll miss them too.
H: But Mom? I think I'm happy.
A: Yeah? Why?
H: Because I get to see my Daddy.
A: I know! I'm very excited to see Daddy too.
H: Three more wake ups!
This particular conversation happened as we pulled out of my Dad's neighborhood as we left his house and our neighbors for the last time. For weeks I dreaded the three days I'd say goodbye to each family here in Michigan, again. The first time I did it was when I moved to Colorado in college to be closer to Eric in 2005. The second time was in 2008 after we both graduated and got married (we lived at home for 60 days while we waited for Eric's next assignment) and when the time came, we drove off to California to start our new life together. We did it a third time in 2011 when our home was flooded and our family came to our rescue so we weren't homeless. And now, this was the fourth time I was leaving home and the people I love the most.
This time was the hardest though. We had been in Michigan three days shy of six months, Theodor had spent 1/3 of his life here and I was enjoying every aspect of having my kids around their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. When I was a kid, we lived very close to my Dad's family. I remember getting together every weekend or so for some kind of gathering or just to hang out. And because of that, I figured that's what families did. So when I decided what kind of life I wanted, I always thought we'd live close to home and have our kids play with their cousins and have them spend ample time with their grandparents. Being in the military kind of squashed that idea. So when I could be home and live the life I always wanted, it was incredibly hard to step away from it and go back to a life where we'd be days away and thousands of miles from family.
I know, I hear you. I'd be going to live with my husband and have my family whole again. YES, it is wonderful. I wanted that too. I didn't want to sleep alone, parent alone or not be with my best friend anymore. I was ready to start our new life, new job, and move into our new house. I was anxious to have my boys wake up and have wrestle time with their dad, to stay up late and watch shows with Eric and to be our own family again. But I was scared of it too.
I knew when I married Eric that we'd move around a lot. But I had no idea it would be such a huge emotional task. Saying goodbye to friends that became family was just as hard as leaving my real family and the ideal lifestyle I always wanted behind for our next duty station. But when you throw in a few kids to the mix, moving around is even more hard. I know there are a lot of people that it doesn't bother, but I'm a home body. I love my family and could literally live a few blocks away from my parents. (I'm not talking Everybody Loves Raymond style, but close.) I want my boys to have a close connection to their grandparents, you see, they are lucky, they have six grandparents. And this time in Michigan I was able to see them have real connections with each grandparent and each set of grandparents. These grandparents were teaching my boys a whole world that Eric and I couldn't. It was magical to see them interact, scold, spoil and love my sons, and my sons enjoyed every minute of it. I also really loved how each set offered something different to my boys. Whether it was the love of the outdoors, the love of birds, camping or fishing, farming, city life, or country life, my boys got to experience it all through our parents.
As we packed up the Uhaul and got ready for our final goodbyes, the boys were anxious. I had knots in my stomach and just wanted to puke. I informed the boys several times that we were going to Ohio to pick up Daddy then on to Colorado to our new house. I told them it would be a long drive, the longest they've ever had, we had a count down and talked about all the great things that would happen when we got there. But we never really talked about what would happen to the people we left behind. Just after we left my Dad's house and came back to my Mom's house Henrik asked if Pal and Gam were going to come with us to Colorado. I told him no. He then looked at me confused and asked if Mimi and Pop Pop were going to come. I told him no, but they could come for a visit. Henrik got mad. "No. They are coming with us." "No honey, they are going to stay here in Michigan." "NO! They are coming. Deal?" How could I argue with him? How could I even convince him that life would be good when we got back together with Daddy knowing that they were leaving their stable, strongest and most loved support system behind?
My mom and step-dad put the kids in the car. My mom held back tears as she gave me road safety tips and to let her know we got to Ohio safely, and for the first time in six months my step-dad put the car seat together properly. The boys were tired and crabby because I kept them up from their nap to help me along in the ride, and I was nervous and wanted it to be over but not have to say goodbye. When I finally shut the doors and pulled away, I just watched my parents in the rear view mirror as they stood there trying to smile and be happy that we were going to be a family again, but sad that we wouldn't be around to spend time with their grand kids.
The boys fell asleep quickly and I just drove, zombie-like to Ohio to get Eric. I cried a bit, I sat in silence and I thought about how wonderful the last six months had been. I was nervous about being a family again. I wanted it badly, but I knew Eric wasn't ready for what these boys had become in half a year. I knew that we were going to love Colorado again and that we'd love our new house, but I dreaded the drive and unpacking. What I really wanted was just a long vacation where we could just escape reality and live in a world where Eric could be in the Air Force and in Michigan at the same time. I was nervous about how the boys would adjust to not having their grandparents around whenever they wanted. Or how they'd react to Eric if he scolded them. Or how Eric and I would get along now that we'd become two very independent people in these six months.
When I pulled into the base Eric was at in Ohio, and saw the reaction that the boys had when they saw their dad I knew it was time to be a family again. As we drove off to Colorado, we had to tell the boys several times what we were doing and why no one was with us and at least in that moment, they understood.
I know that my parents are reading this post. I know that when they read it, they will be happy that we're a family and happy that they are so loved by their grandsons, but I know that they are sad, just like I am, that we just can't have it all. I have to thank them, for everything, these past six months wouldn't have been possible if they weren't there to love and care for my boys. I have seen my parents adapt greatly to the military lifestyle and I have see that they will cherish these past six months for the rest of their lives. They got to actually see, first hand, how these boys are, figure out their personalities, build relationships and forge friendships through different activities. I know my boys can't express their gratitude for their grandparents' help in keeping their family together, but my parents can always remember the joy on the boys' faces in the mornings when they greeted their grandparents. They will always know the running hugs, belly laughs and the unprompted "I love yous" that even Theo muttered to them. My boys will always know the kindness of their grandparents, the comforts of their hugs and their ability to fix and find toys that mom couldn't and that unconditional love and nurture that only a grandparent can offer. And for that, I am so thankful.
As I changed the GPS state and destination to Colorado, my heart sank, the knot in my stomach grew a bit and I let out a gasp. It was real. Final. I cried a few tears and Eric asked what was wrong. I couldn't answer. It was impossible to. I looked at our perfect family and the road ahead and let out a sigh. I'm ready for you Colorado. I'm ready for the changes that life brings us and for all the wonderful things that will come to us in this new life. I just need to remember that no matter what, family is the strongest bond there is and home is actually where you heart is. In my case, my heart is in California, North Dakota, Michigan and now Colorado.