As I walk through this lifeless place I am quiet. It is as if I am trying to avoid waking the cars that are sleeping under their blankets of snow. I am soon lost in my thoughts. It was on a morning exactly like this that I first met the woman walking next to me. On that still snowy dark morning I anxiously made my way across the parking lot to meet her for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect that morning. I didn’t know who she was or what she would feel like to hold. I had no knowledge of the joy and peace I would feel when I held her in my arms. I had no idea how upset she would be able to get me when she exercised her will. But I would learn. I was anxious to meet her that morning so I could begin that learning process. I remember that walk through the frigid still parking lot like it was yesterday … or actually like it was today. Suddenly I was snapped back to the similarity of that moment to this one and the presence of this familiar wonderful woman next to me.
My eyes filled with tears when I remembered that I was here to say goodbye to her. I was here not to greet her as I did 28 years ago today; instead I was sending her off. Not only was today the day she was leaving but it was her birthday as well. Twenty eight years ago when I traversed that parking lot it was to a hospital not an airport. It was the day she was born.
When we finally made it into the airport we walked together up to the security area where we would part. We sat for a while then as her time to leave was imminent. With a weight on my chest I suggested that she needed to get on her way, or she would be late to board. It was almost 5:30AM. As I hugged her I felt the old familiar closeness and the warmth of her; suddenly I felt the need to hold her and protect her. But she didn’t need my protection; it was really me that needed the reassurance of hugging her.
She is one of the few women that I get to hug who can be in my embrace without me bending down. She is tall and muscular but very willowy and feminine. But beyond her physical presence there is palpable warmth to her. This zany, silly, strong willed, lovable and insightful lady can make me feel so peaceful when I hug her. Maybe it is because we share the same view of life, maybe it is our shared emotionality, but the more I think of it, it is the shared memories. Memories of books read on laps, of fall afternoons in the yard playing in leaves, or the task of being the only one who had the patience to do her shampoos when she was tiny because of that curly beautiful hair that got tangled in the tub, or snuggling on the couch watching Charlottes Web and crying in equal measure at the end. It is all those shared experiences, and many many more.
Regardless of what caused the old familiar sense of sense of peace to settle over me as I hugged her in the airport, it was indeed familiar and welcome. It was the same feeling that I had when the nurse handed her to me 28 years ago after she had laid on her mothers chest. But that first time it was an introduction, this time it was a goodbye; certainly not a forever goodbye, but a good bye at least until the fall.
The hug was a long one. We both knew that when it was over I would leave. As we released each other that reality set in. Both our eyes filled with tears and I turned and left unable to face her, fearing that if she saw my tears her own would follow. As I approached the escalator I turned to see her and wave. Despite the distance I could see her eyes were as filled with tears as mine were. We think alike and feel the same emotions, it is not surprising.
I am always bad at goodbyes, but I am particularly bad at them with her. She is my sweet, feisty, adorable L. When she was tiny she felt everything in extreme, extreme love, extreme anger and extreme caring. I remember the hugs. I remember so many times embracing her and burying my face in the curls on the top of her head to calm her when she was upset or riled only to feel her melt in my arms.
Now as I got on the escalator and she disappeared from my view, I was grateful even as the tears streamed down my face.
Twenty eight years to the day and the hour after I first met her she was off to go back to her real life. The last two weeks of her being home alone without her husband was a touching reminder of once was …but now she is so much more than that little girl of years ago. And I am so proud of her.
So fighting the tears I make my way back through the silent parking lot, walking through the still – snow filled air to find my car. I thought of all the years between that first walk through the snow on that January day and this one now and I am sad but I am gratified. She is a wonderful woman and I am thrilled that she is returning to a man who loves her and a life that she loves.
A father’s memories are bittersweet and haunting just like the soft snow falling in the dark stillness of pre dawn. But those memories get mellower and more valued as time goes by just as her love foe me does.
Goodbye until September baby L.
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