Friday, November 19, 2010

Saying Goodbye Isn't Forever

One hundred years ago it would have been a final goodbye, crossing the continent to a new home three thousand miles away. I've left the land of my birth, the houses where I grew up and raised my children, the streets on which I cruised and crashed and went from here to there, the graves in which my mother and sister lay side by side, even the ocean across which I flung the ashes of my father. Though he lives, I've left my son in a place of his own I've yet to see.

Today BassMan and I embarked on a new journey. We're headed to North Carolina, to a new home yet unchosen, just the two of us. With two dogs in the car, we're driving very far (nod to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with that reappropriated line.) We did this kind of journey shortly after our marriage 24 years ago, but we knew our stay in Japan would be temporary--a three-year stretch for his military career. I was pregnant with my first child when we stepped off the plane in Osaka and took the bullet train down to the little Japanese hamlet where I'd give birth seven weeks later. We blinked a few times and baby number two made his appearance. Another blink and the duty in Japan was over and we were back home in California.

Or I was. BassMan's home wasn't California. He returned there because of me. Because we thought we would be taking custody of my departed sister's son. Much to our disappointment, Jacob wound up with his dad and we began a 20-year residency in the land of my birth. BassMan endured it for me, while all the while his heart was in Carolina.

The state of California's economic woes precipitated our move east. When BassMan's job was eliminated by the city for which he worked, he sought employment near and far, but far won out. In these days of bankruptcy, foreclosures, long-term unemployment, we were grateful he was offered a position with a company within a month of his layoff. He was even offered a choice of six locations. None of them nearby. One of them, however, was somewhat near his aging parents and my remaining sister. The choice was easy, but enacting the choice was hard.

Our house sold in three days to the first couple who viewed it. We packed up and pulled out of the driveway barely a month after the house went on the market. With no house to go to, we'll stay with my sister until we find a new place to call home. Writing this reminds me of a needlework plaque we got for a wedding present from one of BassMan's relatives: "No matter what, no matter where, it's always home, when love is there." I know we have the love to make a new home anywhere the road takes us.

I'm already missing my son. He's fully grown, a man in his own right, and yet this kind of missing is so different than what I feel for our daughter who moved away to attend grad school in Washington, DC. She went on her own, for reasons of adventure and learning and cultural enrichment. There is a part of me that feels we've pushed him from the nest with this move and there's a good bit of (s)mothering wonder about whether he was ready. Like any good purpose, we'll have to wait and see.

Still, it's not like it was a hundred years ago when trains took weeks to go from east to west and cost prohibitive amounts of money. Saying goodbye isn't forever any more.


Anonymous said...

Bittersweet, true. I too remember when I was leaving the West Coast, now nearly 11 years ago and felt the strangeness of being sooo very f a r a w a y form the people that I love and the places that I frequent, my home. Fortunately for me, I did not have to leave a child behind. Although leaving my mother and my one living little sister was torture. Even knowing that I would probably get to see my sister again, if only once a year when they came to the Carolina's to visit her inlaws, I wasn't so sure about being able to see my aging mother again. (Big sigh... drippy eyes.) You see, it wasn't like we were the Cleavers or the Brady Bunch. I always felt disconnected. For years it was a struggle trying to stay connected even though it didn't feel like a connection at all; and to know now that I had what I/we were struggling for all along but it only became real when I moved to what seemed like the other side of the world. The place that I always thought was to were I would be following my sister, not the other way around! The place where folks talk funny and shop at Piggly Wiggly; to live in the state where the KKK was still alive and one of the first people I met was named Bubba, seriously. A place where finding good Mexican food took 10 years. Exhale. My little sister, I'm soo glad she is here now! I feel complete "again" or should I say finally. Yes, finally, I feel complete. God works in mysterious ways. Keep in mind sister that the school of hard knocks is an excellent educator and provides a diplomacy that may be more valuable than one provided on paper. Your son will be excellent.

Devon Ellington said...

Best wishes on your new journey. We're here to support you, if you let us.

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Devon, thanks for the encouragement. I'm adjusting well to this new environment and enjoying the empty nest more than I ever thought possible.

Update: After our son finished his school year, he decided to move back here to be near us. He's living with my sister and her family during the week and coming to our house on weekends so we can spoil him.