“Good-bye, I love you”—how many times have I said those words and why are they bittersweet? When Josh began 4th grade, we walked into the school together (that wouldn’t last long-that mother-son walking into school together thing—geez, Mom!), found his new classroom and we hugged. “Good-bye, I love you!” I said and slowly walked away. That was a fun “gbily” –my first time as Josh’s mom to escort him to his first day of a new school year.
The previous May Josh and Lauren’s dad, Michael, and I married—on May 24, 1998 to be exact! They had recently lost their wife/mother, Lana, to metastasized breast cancer. Several years before that I experienced the sudden loss of my only child, my son David, at the age of 2. So, as Josh aptly described the union, “God put us together. We needed a wife and a mom and you needed a husband and a son.” Lauren was the “gift with purchase”, the daughter I never had, and with whom I have laughed, cried, argued, celebrated, distanced, drawn together, distanced again and today we are both finding our way to acceptance and love.
So, back to “gbily”— my next memory of a poignant “Good-bye, I love you” was when Michael, Josh and I drove to Camp Chi in Wisconsin, Josh’s first adventure to be away from home, from us (How will he survive? How will we survive? Quite well, on all counts, as it turned out!). I remember the fragrant towering pine trees and giving Josh the biggest hug I could muster (Come on, Mom, this is embarrassing!), offered the standard “gbily”, turning and walking down the road towards our car with tears streaming down my face.
Another choked up “gbily” was when I took Josh to middle school—this growing up thing is going way too fast! Add a dash of “gbilys” on those occasions that we traveled abroad and weren’t able to include Josh on those journeys (poor kid has only been to more places than most adults have ever experienced—including but not limited to Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, England, Kenya, the Galapagos, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and countless United States!). When Josh was 16, he and Michael climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. As they unloaded their duffel bags at the airport, I hugged them both and said, “Please be safe! Good-bye, I love you” with a major lump in my throat. The good news was that Lauren and I were going to Kenya a week later to meet our intrepid climbers and go on a family safari (As an aside, Africa is my favorite continent and we’re headed back there in September!). There were two more “gbilys” of note during high school: the first was when Josh drove by himself after having received his driver’s license (Please God, keep him safe and thanks Dateline NBC for airing the scary segment on teen driving that very same evening—oy!); the second was when Josh, along with 37 other Kansas City Jewish teens, participated in The March of The Living, which visited the very real and very sobering death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau followed by a week of celebration in Israel.
It seems there have been a flood of “gbilys” in the past couple of yea or maybe, just maybe, they seem so poignant because they are so recent (like, how about today????). Two years ago Michael and I took Josh to the University of Arizona—“Good-bye, we love you!” we said as we boarded the plane to fly to Vegas to attend Virtuoso’s annual Travel Mart (a very important and exhausting travel industry event we’ve participated in for the past 14 years). The next “gbilys” ran together—Josh’s transferring to KU (only 45 minutes from home—maybe we’ll see Josh more often—oh wrong-o, Mom who doesn’t want to let go!), the abbreviated summer after Freshman year (“Hey, Mom and Dad, I’m moving out the beginning of August into an apartment near campus!”), the Thanksgiving dinner (“I’m staying in Lawrence. What time should I be home for Thanksgiving dinner?”), the Winter Break (break from school AND break from coming home other than a couple of short visits! Come on, Mom, lay off the guilt!), the new and very special relationship with Desi, and Josh and Desi giving birth to their son, Tristan, on July 2nd.
Some things are as they should be. How many times have I heard the saying, “We teach them to walk and we teach them to walk away?” Oh, please, can you say “Vomit?” Haven’t you read my script, Universe? Don’t you know that Josh was supposed to be our Peter Pan, our “I won’t grow up” kid? And why, this spewing of my feelings today, you ask? A couple of hours ago Michael and Josh loaded Josh’s bed and chest of drawers into a U-Haul truck to move to the new duplex Josh, Desi and Tristan will call home for the next year. He took his bed!!!!!!!!! He took the photos of Lana he kept next to the bed!!!!!!!!!! Where will Josh sleep when he comes home? And, that is the cause of the angst—he won’t be coming home…
I could have ended with a dramatic flourish but I assure you that this moment of pain, of self-pity, is in fact, just a moment. In my heart I know I will have many more life experiences with our son, Desi, our grandson, our daughter ( who now lives in Hawaii but is coming home to visit in September!) and her friends, our travels, our friends, our newest business venture (TBA in a couple of months)…but, God, could you just give me a little sneak preview?