Of holes and forests and trees

“I know you must feel like a small voice in the wilderness, but keep doing what you’re doing, even if it’s just a couple of thoughtful lines on a blog.” –Patti

I haven’t written since late January because…

Have you ever had so much to say your throat feels choked with words and none can find their way out? And the longer you go with no words, the harder it is to utter the first ones again?

When my daughter moved 3,000 miles away to college last fall, she somehow knew exactly why and how it was different for each of us:

“It’s not as hard for me because my whole life is new and there’s no Mom hole in it where you used to be. But your life is the same except you have a Grace hole where I used to be.”

(There are actually two holes now, but I can’t write about that second one just yet.)

As the months passed, the Grace hole gradually closed. It happened slowly. Sometimes, if I was careless or the world was particularly sharp, the wound re-opened. That hurt.

Before I knew it, her first year of college was done. On May 10th, she came home.

At first, it felt a little uncomfortable to let a space open for her again. I’d gotten used to my new routines and ways of being. And truth be told, at first I felt a little resistance, and fear:  That peace I’d made my way to was hard-won; I did not want to have to retrace my steps when she left.

And now she will always be leaving again.

It didn’t take much for me to surrender though, and I discovered that being a mom at this stage is a lot like riding a bike. After a few wobbles, I knew just what to do, and it was glorious to fly down the road again with the sun on my face.

Still, I knew all along she’d only be home for a month, and that the time would end. Of all the things I cannot control, time is the most vexing. The day to take her back to the airport came swiftly, and too soon.

Now there is a Grace hole again. I find its edges in the oddest places–when I turn on the car and it is her music I hear, when I see the apples that only she eats going soft in the bowl, when I put on the coat she wore and smell the echo of her perfume.

It is smaller than the chasm she left in August, and it will close more quickly. I know this. But I suspect the scar it leaves will always be a tender one.

Forest Photo Credit: ALFONSO1979  Flickr via Compfight cc

14 thoughts on “Of holes and forests and trees

  1. Kate says:

    Oh, Rita, I’m so glad to see your words again. They serve as such a good reminder to me that this time is so very fleeting and that I will miss them as much (maybe even more) than I want to escape them (if only for just a day or two). I know I don’t understand yet, but I’m thinking of you.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Kate. I saw this comment yesterday and spent some time thinking about it. I will confess that I remember a day when my children were in 8th grade and I told my mother that I almost wished we could skip right to them being done with high school because so much of parenting in those years was a struggle for me. I said “almost” because I knew I didn’t really want that. But it was hard. That was true, too. Now, of course, I look back at those years and almost wish I could have them back–but still, it is only “almost.” Even with what I know now, I don’t know that I would do it any better or that it would be any easier. What I’ve been lamenting these past weeks is the all or nothing nature of parenting (most of it, anyway). It is so intense. Of course we want escape (if only for just a day or two)! It is true, though, that the time is fleeing. I did my best to soak up and savor all the good parts, and I see you doing that, too. I think that’s the best any of us can do.

      • Kate says:

        It really is intensive. It’s just hard work loving another human being as much as we love them. You add the required attempts at guidance and cohabitation (I still half joke that I married Jesse because he’s the only person I ever lived with that didn’t drive me CRAZY) and it’s A LOT. And like anything you spend your whole life doing, when you can’t/don’t do it any more….well, that’s a big hole. And your Grace is very right about that. It’s hard to have a big hole and have life continue on much like it always had…but different.
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        • Rita says:

          Thank you, Kate. (And sorry it’s taken me so long to answer you. I don’t even know why.) You are right: It is hard work loving another human being. It’s a huge gift, but also hard work. In many ways, I’m finding it much easier to love my kids now that we aren’t co-habiting! 🙂 Isn’t that a mean paradox? Your words remind me, too, the role that choice plays. I didn’t get to choose this new way of being, so it’s a “can’t” do it any more. I’ve been trying to focus on what I can choose, though, which is what I do with the space. I’m looking forward to exploring that this summer.

          I hope you and your family have a wonderful one. Looking forward to reading about your adventures big and small. 🙂

  2. Kari Wagner says:

    I am so glad to read your words again. Especially because I just can’t write mine right now.
    I have noticed a Rita hole in the blogosphere and it cannot be filled by anyone else.
    Sending you love.

    • Rita says:

      Thank you, Kari. I miss your words, but totally understand and support what you’re doing. I’ll see what I can do about filling that hole in the blogosphere. 🙂 Maybe not a whole lot right now? Needing some time to heal from a whole lotta things, and finally have some space in which to do that. Might be a different kind of summer for both of us.

  3. Deborah says:

    Lovely to see you back again Rita. It sounds like the months since January have been tough for you.
    The thing about being a parent is that it is constantly changing and always part of our lives.
    As the mother of two adult sons (now 28 and 30), I’m loving still being part of their lives but as all of us adults now. Sometimes they have good advice and support for me, other times I have it for them. Mostly we just enjoy getting together whenever we can – maybe every few weeks, maybe every few months.
    It’s sometimes been hard moving from one stage in their / my / our lives, but I’ve been doing that now for 30 years and I hope to be doing it for many more. i’ve been fortunate that the changes have become easier for me as time has gone by.
    If I’m honest I’ve also found it joyously liberating to move to parenting adults instead of children, and the gains have outweighed the losses. I hope that you begin to feel so too eventually.

    • Rita says:

      Hi Deborah, It’s nice to hear from you, too. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond–life. And I seem to just be out of the habit of blogging. Parenting is helping me see that all our relationships are always changing–although I think that once we hit early adulthood, we get relative stability for awhile. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s just been my story. What I’ve been seeing lately is that things are changing with my parents, too. It feels as if we’re all moving into some new stage of being with each other. I know that’s the way of life. Doesn’t mean it’s always easy though, does it? 🙂

      I think my big challenge is just finding some balance–or a way to stay balanced with what is with my kids. If they were both close enough for regularish visits, I think I would be experiencing joyous liberation, too. Because it is absolutely true that some of my new life is liberated and that liberation is joyous. It’s just that one is 3,000 miles away and the other is also going to be far away (though we don’t know exactly where yet). He’s been in military boot camp since the end of April. He’ll be home for a week soon, and then gone again for months. This is quite different from what I experienced when I left home and was only half an hour away from my parents. There’s something different about knowing that you can see each other whenever you want (and then actually seeing each other with some regularity).

      Anyway, thank you for your words. I hope the changes become easier for me as time goes by. Glad to know that they have for you.

  4. TD says:

    I’m glad that you included Patti’s quote.

    I have been reading your blog with enjoyment for a couple of years. I too was worried about you when I would check in to read your spot. And January it just seemed to stop. Then I saw that you placed a comment on another blog that I also read. And I knew that you were okay and just engaged in other activities.

    Although I never had children, what you wrote here helps me with understanding a good life friend of mine of 40 years with perhaps some of her challenges raising her daughter and blending family concerns.

    Your other essays have all been wonderful as well as this one. I hope that you keep writing and sharing. You make a difference in a very positive way!

    • Rita says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I think I’m just in a bit of a dry spell. Been a lot to process in the past year or so. I appreciate you letting me know that the words I get out matter to you.

  5. Marian says:

    This is such a beautiful post, Rita, and I’m so sorry I missed it when you wrote it a month ago (I just got the email notification for your Postcards piece and was so happy to see you were writing again, only to realise you had begun again a month ago and that for some reason I didn’t get a notification on this one!).

    Grace’s words ring so absolutely true. This is precisely what I found when my daughter, and then my older son, left for university. It’s so hard to remain behind and wander through the house and feel all their echoes, and to know that even if they return there will always and forevermore be leavings. (And yes, leaving and making their own path is a good thing; it’s exactly what we should all want for our children, but all the same, it’s still a bittersweet loss.)
    Marian recently posted…Making, Meditation, MeaningMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Oh, no worries, Marian. You know how erratic I am on keeping up with friends. 🙂 I wrote some lofty post in January about “amplify” being my word of the year, but I think “bittersweet” is far more apt. I am glad my children are out in the world, doing good things, and I am so grateful that I got to raise them (especially having come so close to not), but yes, it is hard to let them go. Just because truths are contradictory doesn’t make them less true, does it? It’s nice to have someone to “talk” with who understands–and I know you do.

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