A piece of my heart has wandered far from me.
I’ve had a number of firsts recently. I’ve never been on an all girl road trip. I’ve never traveled so many miles without a parent or my husband at the steering wheel. I’ve never had a child move out of my home. Until now.
At the beginning of the summer, my daughter, Grace, decided she couldn’t live without the handsome Ontario farm boy she met at bible school. She declared her intentions to head out east, registered for college courses at the school where he was enrolled, and socked away her wages and tips from waitressing. She owns a reliable vehicle, one her dad helped her find, and, of course, we would never allow her to make the 28 hour drive alone. My husband would’ve loved to take her, but, being a pastor, couldn’t leave the church with the fall kick off looming. It was left to me to see that she was delivered safely and a road trip with my girl was just the adventure I needed to kick off my own fall.
The trip went smoothly. The scenery was green and appealing other than the vast, scrub brush wasteland of Montana, the tunes coming across the dial were mostly pop country or contemporary christian, the conversation was sometimes light, sometimes deep. We shopped at the Mall of America in Minneapolis where the parkade was so large and congested you could feel the structure shaking. We thought maybe my daughter’s car was giving out, but the shaking continued after we parked and exited the vehicle. We weaved through the weird and the wonderful at the House on the Rock in Wisconsin. We spent a day in downtown Chicago, marveled at the big, shiny bean, took an awe-inspiring architectural river cruise, road the ferris wheel on the Navy Pier, and finished off with Chicago deep dish pizza and a 360° view of the city at dusk. We also saw my old homes in Bismarck and Detroit and had dinner with an aunt and uncle and some cousins who I haven’t seen in over 30 years. We spent one day getting to know Grace’s boyfriend’s family, who turned out to be loving, generous, creative people, on their idyllic 100 acre farm outside of Sarnia. It was fun, meaningful, and exhausting.
We left Sarnia in what I thought was the black hole of the morning to make my flight at 7:00am in London, Ontario. The GPS had been reliable, kindly rerouting us when we missed an exit and we always arrived at our destination in a timely manner. We were close to the airport when we discovered that the exit we were to take was closed for construction. We obeyed the GPS and took the next exit, believing it would reroute us and everything would be fine. The GPS took us back onto the freeway to access the exit to the airport going the other way, which was also closed for construction. We tried using Google maps and received the same prompts. We stopped at a gas station and asked a passerby who pointed and threw out some street names. We followed his instructions in the opposite direction away from the airport. It was dark, we couldn’t see, we didn’t know where we were, and we couldn’t think clearly.
I ran into the airport, breathless, with only 10 minutes to spare and the customer service agent grabbed my hand and whisked me and my two carefully measured carry-on items down the passenger boarding bridge and onto the airplane. No, sadly, that’s not how it happened at all, because I don’t live in a movie. I ran, literally, into the airport with only 10 minutes to spare, passing a family waiting to check in for a later flight whose attention was now completely focused on me, but I didn’t care, calling out, “Can somebody help me?” Tears dribbled onto my cheeks as I explained my predicament to the customer service agent. He calmly informed me that there was no possible way I could board that flight. He didn’t scold me or ask me to take out my credit card. He clacked away on his keyboard, handed me a couple of boarding passes, and told me to come back at 2:00 pm. A grace moment, to be sure.
I wiled away the next few hours with my daughter at a mall, intermittently shopping and crying. I was staring into the full face of truth. We were in a place that required either a very long drive or an airplane to get home and she wasn’t coming with me. At one point, I was crying about being that grandmother, the one that lives so far away that her grandchildren don’t know her. In my family of origin, we moved across the country from my extended family. When a pastor receives a call from God, at least in my dad’s day, he answers the call no matter where the call comes from. Like Abraham, my dad went where he sensed God was telling him to go. This meant that my relationship with my grandparents was abruptly halted. When each one passed away, I felt guilt and sadness that I didn’t feel more sadness, because I had ceased to know them intimately. If my girl decides to stay in Ontario, I may have to be the holiday granny, but this hasn’t happened yet. Still, rational thought seems to back away when life shakes you out of your routine stupor and your emotions clutch at your throat and spill out your eyes.
I always joke that my parents had to leave the country to get me out of the house. They moved to Chicago when I was in University. My husband and I had been dating for some time and there was no chance I was going to test our love by moving across the border. Relationships, for the most part, are a matter of proximity and time spent.
I understand my daughter’s choice and I applaud her for her boldness and decisiveness. Besides, people don’t stay in one place like they used to. They make decisions about where to live based on their careers or their love interest, some move for health reasons or because they want to enjoy a certain lifestyle.
This day was supposed to come. She’s been leaving since the day she was born. It’s her destiny to make her own life and not just be an extension of mine. Her leaving picked up speed in high school. She got her first job working as a hostess at a Chinese restaurant. At 16, she bought a car. With her schooling, work, and friends, her life grew more complex, more adult-like. During those years, we saw her coming and going. A few short months ago, I watched her return from bible school on the coast. Now I was watching her go for what may be the last time.
I used to talk about what a privilege it’s to behold a child blooming like a flower; to see their personality unfold in all life’s early stages. For us, the Kid #1 show is over. No more Grace tramping through the house with a gaggle of pony-tailed girls behind her, no more Grace flopping on the couch with a bag of chips or sitting at the kitchen counter playing with her phone. Now we’ll see her lavender eyes and broad smile only on holidays, if that. There’ll be no more impromptu talks, only intentional ones. Unfortunately, I’m better at spontaneous than intentional. I’m going to have to adjust in order to maintain the relationship.
I started crying in the car when we arrived back at the airport. I opened the door and my daughter said, “You don’t have to get out of the car, if you’re crying.” I told her that I would cry in the car and in the airport terminal and on the airplane and that we just needed to say goodbye so she could make the trip back to Sarnia. We hugged while I sobbed out a prayer.
God kindly gave me a window seat and two zonked passengers next to me. I turned my face toward the window. No bawling, just long streams of continuous tears like too much paint running down and stopping, holding the shape of drips on my skin before collapsing. I dug through my carry-on bag for a tissue and came up with a half-used one. I didn’t have the strength to ask a flight attendant. I had no idea it would hurt so much. The umbilical cord was cut at birth, but it’s as if there was an invisible cord between us being slowly severed as she grew and the last delicate tendril just gave way. John 17:20-21 came to mind, as scripture often does in times of trouble or sorrow. Jesus said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” I felt consoled. Because of Christ, Grace and I are one, no matter where we are in the body, all bound up together, snugly and warm, in the love of the Father, the friendship of the Son, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Our connection is eternal.
The tears dissipated as I began to pray over her, I up above somewhere, she down below. I prayed for her health and safety, her provision, her relationships, her studies, and her future. She may now live the rest of her life beyond my gaze. We helped make her what she is. Now our influence will be less prevalent. Others will make her. She will make herself.
Judging from my Facebook feed, I’m not alone. There are plenty of my peers to commiserate with. My life is veering in a new direction. What felt like a sudden, sharp turn has really been a long, slow curve I’ve finally come round. The view is substantially different. My mother turned 80 this year and she says life only gets better. I’m going with that.
Complete the experience. Listen to Nicole Nordeman’s Slow Down.
Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂