Date: August 1975
Place: San Francisco International Airport
The thought was silly and probably melodramatic, but I couldn't get it out of my mind. I would never see Grandpa again. Somehow I knew it in every fiber of my being, and I wept silently all the way to the airport, hiding my face by pretending to look out the window as Grandpa drove. There wasn't much conversation, because I think he was feeling what I was feeling, and we both knew that our voices would betray us. Jonathan stood in the middle of the front seat or sat on my lap in those days before mandatory seat belts, and occasionally one or the other of us would point out something of interest to that little bright two-year-old.
We got to the boarding gate, and I was steeling myself for that final good-bye that I couldn't bear to contemplate. We had fifteen minutes before flight time. I was about to mention another triviality when unexpectedly a stewardess came to me and said, "We're ready to board mothers with young children now."
"Oh. Okay. Come on, Jonathan."
I grabbed him, the carry-on bag, and my purse, and followed her into the tunnel that led to the plane.
"I can't leave like this!" I thought, and despite the urgings of the stewardess, I ran back to the boarding area to hug my grandpa.
He was gone. I have always imagined him blinking hurt tears away so others wouldn't see.
Date: September 1975
Place: Pelham, Georgia
We were hurrying home. We had been away from our son for the first time ever, and we had been gone for a whole week. Cords were pulling us down the highway. Once we got to Atlanta, we couldn't drive fast enough to get to our adored two-year-old only child. He had always loved being at Grandma's, of course, but we knew that after a week, the thrill would have worn off, and that he would be suffering miserably without us. No doubt he had cried himself to sleep for the past several nights. How could we have left him for so long? What kind of parents were we? We hurried faster.
In our haste to comfort our pathetically grieving son, we walked in the back door without even knocking. There he was, sitting in front of the TV. At last!! We paused expectantly for the usual rush to greet us with big hugs and kisses. He looked at us. He smiled slightly, nodded, and turned immediately back to Mister Rogers. We called his name. We approached him. He smiled again, but he didn't miss a second of Mister Rogers. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . . ." He had a wonderful time without us and had not missed us one bit. We were raising a child to be independent, and apparently we were doing a wonderful job of it. Why was I disappointed?
Date: June 1995
Place: Thomasville, Georgia
Time: 10:00 p.m.
I was exhausted but I couldn't sleep, probably because I couldn't relinquish the worries of the day--and because I had not hugged my daughter when we left her earlier that day for six weeks at the Governor's Honors Program. We had dropped her off to get settled in her room while we attended the parents' meeting, and when we came back, she was gone. I felt a keen and unexpected loss.
10:58 p.m.: I get up to distract myself. I hadn't even thought about getting her mailing address. Now I'd have to wait for her to write; and since my children have never experienced a minute of being homesick, she might not write for weeks, if at all.
An inner panic at the idea of failing to meet others' expectations--that was why we left her so hurriedly at the dorm. And come to think of it, that was the same reason that I had missed one last chance to hug my grandpa.
So I learn that my children are independent, but I am not.
P.S. 11:33 p.m.: The phone rings. It's Amy!
"Mom, I can only talk for a minute or I'll get in trouble. Are you bringing my pillow?"
"Yes. Tomorrow. How do I write you?"
I speak in my most hurried, clandestine voice. I don't want the R. A. to catch her breaking rules on her first night. They might think my child was homesick and not independent.
"P.O. Box 7424."
"Okay. I love you."
This was my request for a verbal hug.
"I love you, too."
It sounds genuine!
Maybe she's not independent . . . yet.