Good-Bye

He was a very quiet young man. Shy, even. When I asked when we could meet him, she hesitated and then reluctantly admitted that he wasn’t comfortable meeting us. I chided her that if he wanted to be in a relationship with her, it meant being in a relationship with us too. Eventually, he’d have to get comfortable with us.

And he did. Over a period of three years, he became a member of our family. He was there on Christmas day, there on random evenings, there on trips to visit extended family. I slowly started to get to know him. I found him unfailingly polite – a kind and gentle soul. A calm counterpoint to Jane’s more volatile, strong-willed nature.

And then she called me while we were visiting family out of state for Thanksgiving and she was home alone because of work. She dropped a bombshell and told me it was over. She had broken up with him. She was crying. I was stunned. Why? And why now, when she was home alone with no one there to comfort her?

But there it was. I texted him and told him that I was sorry, that I knew he was hurting, and that we would always care for him. He responded in kind. His mother wished me a Happy Thanksgiving with a broken heart. I returned the sentiment. I felt hollow and anxious and…helpless. As the days went on, I realized what my biggest problem was. Why I kept crying when I thought about it.

There was a parenting truth there that I hadn’t seen coming. Hadn’t thought about and did not like at all.

My children can bring anyone they want into my life and I have no control over how long they stay.

I can love the person, consider them family, be comfortable with them in my house whether I’m home or not, and then – just like that – they can be gone. I have no control; I have no say. It can happen without warning, and it truly doesn’t matter how I feel about it. I just have to accept and adjust.

I don’t like that. I don’t like this person not being around anymore. I don’t like wondering about the next person. About whether I will like them as much, whether they won’t last either, whether I will be sad or relieved if they don’t.

I am proud of my daughter – proud of the strong young woman she is becoming. Proud of her ability to make hard decisions rather than just going with what is comfortable, what everyone is expecting. Maybe this was the right decision, maybe it wasn’t. But it was her decision. Not mine.

I just get to live with the results. And that really sucks.

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I’m on my way… maybe…

My phone rang as I walked the long walk to my car after work.

“Mom? Are you coming to pick me up?”

“Nah. I was going to but I changed my mind…”

<silence>

“…I’ve decided to go to Florida instead.”

“What? How are you going to go to Florida in your truck?”

“How am I going to go to Florida?”

“Yes! You can’t go to Florida in your truck.”

“Do you really not know how people travel from one place to another? It’s simple. I get in my truck and I drive. Then I stop for gas. And then I drive. And then I stop for gas. And I stop to pee. And then I drive. And I keep doing that until I get to Florida.”

“You are not going to Florida.”

“Why not? How do you know I’m not going to Florida?”

“Mom!!” I could hear his friends in the background. “I want to go home!”

“Oh, well that’s a problem if I’m on my way to Florida.”

“Come pick me up!”

“If I pick you up, what, you want me to come home with you then?”

“Yes! You can watch me play Black Ops.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun. Florida sounds like fun.”

“You can eat crackers.”

“What?”

“Crackers.”

“What about crackers?”

“You can eat them while you watch me play Black Ops. Or whatever it is you eat. Black Ops is awesome.”

“I don’t like watching you play Black Ops – that’s your dad. Mickey Mouse is in Florida. That sounds more fun to me. I mean, come on! Mickey!” At this point, I climbed into my truck and began to drive to the high school.

“I’m trying to celebrate. Come get me.”

“Celebrate? Celebrate what?”

{something garbled that sounded like “Football is over! Forever!”}

“Football isn’t over. You have a game on Thursday.”

{more garble that sounded like “This was the last practice! Ever!”}

“Last practice ever? Wait, I thought you loved football. You don’t plan on playing next year? Really?”

“No, mom! Last freshman football practice. It’s done.”

“It’s not done. You still have a game on Thursday.”

“Mom, come on. You need to pick me up.”

“Ok, fine. I’m on my way.”

“Good.”

“It’s going to take me a while to get there though. I had already made it to Alabama before you called.”

“Alabama’s not even that far away mom.”

I laughed. “You need to pay more attention to geography if you think Alabama is close.”

“You can fly.” Again, I could hear his friends talking and laughing.

“I can’t believe you are talking about my super powers in front of your friends. You know I don’t like people to know that I can fly.”

“Mom!”

“Besides, I’m not strong enough to carry the truck with me all the way back from Alabama.”

“Please just come pick me up!”

“I am! I’m on my way right now.”

“Wait, so you mean you are talking to me on the phone while you are driving? That’s not safe, mom!”

“Ok, fine. You are right. Bye!”

I set my phone down with a chuckle. I’m so glad he’s a good sport.