When my older son told me he was moving off Long Island, where we live, to a city in upstate New York, about 225 miles away, I felt a pang in my heart. He was going to a better job, and a place where money bought a lot more than it does here at home. But he was my dining-out and beach-walk buddy. I was thrilled at his chance for greater happiness. I just wished he could be happy a little closer to home.
My younger son reassured me. “Don’t worry. He’s not going to stay there. All that snow! He’ll be back.”
But he has stayed there these past few years. It’s his home now. He drives 5 1/2 hours to visit me, and I do the same. I’ve gotten used to it. Sort of. I’d rather he be far away and happy, than geographically close and miserable.
I said goodbye when my younger son moved to Japan after college. He warned me he might want to live there forever. I felt a low level of sadness upon waking each morning. But we had the same long conversations on Skype that we used to have when he was in high school and sat at the foot of my bed every night telling me about his friends, his music, the band he played in, the Magic the Gathering tournaments he entered, his hopes and dreams.
And then hello! After 3 years in Japan, my younger son moved back to NYC. He became my city buddy. We’d often meet for lunch on Saturdays and walk around Central Park, the High Line, little Japan, Korea town, and new places we kept discovering together.
A couple of months ago, he decided to move to California. Goodbye? Oh well, it’s a lot closer than Japan, and cheaper to fly to.
When our children choose to live in far away places, it’s a mixed blessing. We’ll miss them, but we’re excited that they’re adventurous, happy and hopeful.
California will be fun to visit. Besides, who knows where I’ll end up eventually?
When I anticipate the separation, I remind myself about the never-ending loop of hellos and goodbyes that parenthood is.
That miraculous hello, when my baby was placed in my arms for the first time. He stared at me with the unfocused, intent gaze that made me fall in love forever.
That first goodbye, when I had to drop my two little boys off at day care. All day, I longed to wrap my arms around them. Part of my heart had been torn from me. But joyful hellos awaited me every evening when I returned.
The next goodbye, when they went to school.
Those galloping hellos when I came home from work and they dashed into my arms. First for hugs and kisses, then to report on the mischief their brother had gotten into and could I please punish him.
Goodbye, when I dropped my older son (and later my younger son) off at college. He sat on the bed and stared at me, lost and uncertain. Not as lost as I felt as I drove home.
When I called him later to hear his voice, he said in a breathless rush, “I have to go. We’re having a hall meeting. Then I’m going to dinner with new friends. I love you. Bye!”
Does it get easier, this series of reunions and partings? No, because I love them so much. Yes, because I love them so much.
And I get better at it. It’s the way life is. It’s the way I want it to be.
Whenever I dwell on how I’ll miss my younger son, as I do my older son, I remind myself how lucky I am, because right now, there is another hello just around the corner.