I’m a cryer. I cry over movies, books, and TV shows. I cry when I give a speech or preach a sermon. I have been known to cry over a well-dramatized commercial. So when I resolved not to shed a tear at the airport bidding child #2 goodbye for a 3 1/2 month mission trip to Guatemala, I doubted my chances of success. Full leave, you understand, to lose it when she was out of sight dealing with the TSA (on her own), but I refused to make her feel bad about what she was doing by dissolving in front of her.
Just made it. And now, at what child #3’s facebook status puts at 99 days, 12 hours, and 43,521seconds until her return, I have found it is not as I expected it to be. I expected sadness. Tears. Quiet. A feeling that something was not quite right. More tears. What I did not expect was the physical pain. The three-day upset stomach. The lethargy that has nothing to do with the intense knee pain from two days in a cramped car. The profound sadness deeper than tears, which come so randomly anyway at all times. And now I understand just what that phrase “deafening silence” really means.
No one is singing Disney songs at the top of her (very powerful) lungs. No one is finishing my sentences. No one is quoting Austen, Tolkien, and Monty Python at me all in the same conversation. So, perhaps in the interest of all parents who have said goodbye to an offspring lately, I should compile a list of the good things.
–No one is hogging the bathroom for 45 minutes every day.
–No one is leaving her dirty socks, computer cords, dishes, and schoolbooks all over five rooms and then not knowing where they are. (The books, that is. She has never cared where the dirty socks and dishes are.)
–No one is using the car and computer that belong to her. So, extra for us.
–No one is telling me, “Oh, by the way, you’re driving ten of my friends to the movie in a half hour. And could you stop and get some food for us, too?”
But let’s face it. Not one thing is better here because she is gone into the world in her own.
But the world is better. And isn’t that the tradeoff we hope to make as parents?
It hurts like real grief always hurts. But it means, while everything feels all wrong, it is indeed all right.