I'd been married just over a year. I think I was 24, 25 years old. I was living in Lakeview, in a garden apartment on Roscoe. My parents lived in Crystal Lake with my youngest sister, then 13 or 14. Our middle sister, 22 or 23, was in grad school, in Boston.
Mom announced that Dad had taken a promotion with Motorola...they'd be moving to Seattle.
It didn't even feel real.
At first, all my thoughts began with "me":
I just got married!
Mom and Dad won't be an hour away from me anymore!
How and when will I see my parents and my baby sister with my limited vacation time?
Quickly, though, my perspective shifted, and I began to think in terms of "us":
We know no one in Seattle.
Our entire family is here in the Chicagoland area.
How often will we see one another, and how will it affect our relationships?
How can we coordinate care for our grandmother if Mom isn't here to keep doing it?
In writing, the shift looks clean and simple, though it was anything but. And it didn't happen until after they'd left.
I recall standing on my parents' driveway. They'd almost finished packing the house. We'd stopped by to collect all of my childhood mementos -- books, journals, boxes of awards, artwork, notebooks and pressed flowers from first true loves. Stored in my parents' attic, these archives of my history went from someday-I'll-get these-off-your-hands to we-really-should-have-rented-the-bigger-UHaul. But there was no point in my folks dragging these things to the Pacific Northwest. I was an adult now. And these things belonged to me.
Standing on that driveway, though, I didn't want my stuff back. I wanted it all to stay in that attic. I wanted to still pop over on a Sunday evening, sunburned after sailing, and have an impromptu barbeque and a laugh about life. I wanted to walk up to Mom as she stood in front of the open fridge door, shaking her head in search of yellow mustard and say, "It's right here, Silly." I wanted to sit on the deck and say, "Well, we'd better get back to the city now. Maybe we'll see you next weekend?" I wanted to pull out of that driveway, knowing that a part of my life was still tucked under that roof, safely protected by the parents who loved me unconditionally. Instead, I drove away, sobbing, with a packed-to-the-gills trailer rental filled with boxes to remind me of how great a life they'd given me.
* * *
Right after Mom and Dad moved, I recall lying face down on my bed, cordless phone in hand, speaking to Mom's best friend, Joan.
I was crying, yet again.
"Your heart is broken," Joan said, putting into words the feelings I could not name.
"How am I going to do this?" I'd asked, ashamed.
She let me cry. She didn't fix it. She validated my feelings. She reassured me she'd be there if ever I needed a shoulder.
"But you'll do this," she said. "You'll surprise yourself."
"Ha," I said, embarrassed. "I'm already suprising myself. I'm acting like a baby." My God, I thought. I'm supposed to be a grown up. I'm a grown woman, a married woman, weeping like a child because her mommy won't be there.
"You are not alone," Joan said. "You are not alone."
And that's what did it. Hearing that phrase is literally what did it. I just needed to hear what I feared the most. And then, I felt okay.
I told Joan I loved her, and we ended the call.
Then I climbed off my bed, littered with tissues, gathering them all up into a ball.
I threw them away, poured myself a glass of water, and walked back to the phone to call my grandmother.
"Hi,Nana," I said. "It's me. Are you up for a visit this weekend?"