She sits on the burgundy, leather sofa with her reading glasses on while immersed in a Dean Koontz novel. Her head is tilted in the way that older people do when wearing bifocals. I ask her a question, but she doesn’t hear me. I ask again with more volume to my voice. “What?” she answers. It’s the first time I realize that her hearing isn’t what it was when I saw her two years ago.
I watch him casting the fishing line across our pond, while I stand at the front window inside our home. He fractured his right arm 4 weeks before this visit and it’s the first time he’s taken a chance to cast the line in hopes of catching “the big one.” When he came to visit last year, a big catfish broke his line and swam away! His original plan was to help us with numerous projects around the property, but due to doctor’s orders, he’s restricted to lifting no more than 2 pounds. I’m fairly certain that the catfish’ in our pond are more than 2 pounds. As far as the projects are concerned, I can get them done later with someone else's help and the reality is that having his company is more important.
She’s organized, structured and analytical, not leaving anything to chance. She’s a perfectionist to the end, not missing any details. He’s enjoys being outdoors working on a project or in the garden. He struggles with staying away from snack foods like ice cream, baked goods and hot tamales candy. They’re both compassionate, generous and love their family. Also, I have to mention that although they’re not from the south, they love sweet tea! I forget that I have all these traits in common, until they are both in my presence.
These two people are my parents. I have the pleasure of visiting with them only once every year or two. I hope they’ll forgive me for saying that when they arrived this time, I was reminded of their age. For me, seeing them so rarely, I keep them safe in my mind as I saw them last. It’s easy for me to stay in my denial about the fact that they’re aging and with that comes health concerns. A year or two makes a big difference, especially now that they’re in their late 60’s. In the past year, two of my friends had a parent pass away and I don’t take for granted that mine are still alive. I can still call them and ask for their advice or simply call to say “I love you and miss you.”
Like so many military families, whether active duty or retired, our families are far away. We spend too many holidays without them and although neighbors or friends may invite us to their homes, it’s not the same. Of course we appreciate the offer and the companionship, but our families are being missed in our heart. At a friend’s house, I don’t think I’d get away with talking loud, bickering or eating the last piece of dessert. When we spend holidays with our families we can get away with leaving dishes in the sink or letting the dogs lick the plates, but don’t think for a minute that your friends would appreciate it!
This morning my parents and I said our goodbye’s before they headed off for a 5 day drive home. As I have done so many times in the past, when I would say goodbye to friends from a military move or when I had the rare chance to go home for a visit, I said my goodbye as quickly as possible. No sense in delaying the inevitable since it’s the last thing I want to be doing. Although we got on each others nerves a few times over the three week period (what family wouldn’t?) I start to get teary as I hug them and wonder when I’ll see them again. I think of how much I miss those hugs and wish I could have that safe place more often, like I did when I was a kid.
Unfortunately, they won’t be with me for this year’s holidays, but I’ll cherish the time I spent with them and the memories we created: great meals together, exploring new places around town to include the new bakery and walks around our ranch. As my dad so eloquently said to me years ago, when I was leaving my childhood home and going back to my adult home to be with my husband, he said “You’re heart is in two places.” He was so right with that statement, because my heart IS always in two places.