I don’t usually cry when we say goodbye, but I was sad to leave you yesterday. You both stood at your door and watched as we walked down the corridor, back to our car, back to real life. The life you once lived. You waved as we turned the corner, while Silas shouted his last ‘I LOVE YOU!’ with his little voice. I turned my head to keep him from seeing the tears forming in my eyes, though perhaps I should have let them fall.
‘What’s wrong, Mama?’ he would have asked.
‘It’s just sad, buddy,’ I would have said.
It was sad to leave this place that isn’t really yours. It isn’t the home where I spent my summers, dancing in the driveway, diving for pennies in the pool, licking fudgcicles and orange push ups before they dripped down my arms from the summer heat, roasting marshmallows from the wooden swing next to the fire. Remember that? Remember the hours we spent with tweezers on the card table out back filling the metal frames with tiny, colorful plastic pieces we would then bake into sun-catchers? Or how you drove me to the pet store to buy a tiny bottle feeder when we found those baby rabbits abandoned by their mother?
Those poor rabbits.
What is it like to get old? I find I’m asking myself this now. Not that I’m anywhere near you yet, You’ve got almost 50 years on me, but still.
We took you to Cracker Barrel and I’m sure you’ll be talking about that for weeks. (what else do you talk about when we’re gone?) You knew all the waitresses, they all came over to kiss you. Where you been? they asked. I was happy to suffer the greasy white food for your celebrity. And you bought my sons toys, whatever they wanted. Normally I’d say no, they don’t need a life-sized plastic triceratops that will one-day end up in a landfill. But for the pleasure it brought you, and the childhood memories it brought me, I wholeheartedly agreed.
Next to the crocheted doilies, the faux antique signs and the madlibs, you even slipped a bill into my hands. “Take it,” you said, “get something nice for you.” You always did spoil me.
I hope it wasn’t the last time we see you. (Sorry for ending with such a morbid thought!) But I did give a little extra hug when we left, just in case. It’s getting both easier and harder to travel with two little boys, so I hope we’ll be back soon.
But just in case, I wanted you to know, I love you. When we’re apart, it’s not the the worn carpet in your small apartment or your overmedicated, glassy eyes I’ll remember. I wanted you to know that.
I’ll remember the good stuff, I promise.