I wrote and shared this piece with my writing group back in October 2016. I shelved it, not seeing a “purpose," then remembered it when I went through the arrivals section with my husband and daughter upon our return from France recently.
I had written it before my father died, so this piece is mostly about grieving my mother.
Now it feels like the time to share it with you.
I forgot... until I remembered.
Time and time again, I do this.
I forget... until I remember.
I pass through customs of my airport and push through the double doors that swing open to the non-secured area. And then I hit the wall of people; limo drivers holding signs; young families expectantly searching for the appearance of their elderly parents; lovers reuniting; friends reconnecting. Hugs shared, and tales of travels and sights seen spilling from mouths. I forget about this joy. Until I remember.
And then I hit another wall.
I am punched in the gut by grief. Tears sting the corners of my eyes with such sudden ferocity that I need to pause to catch my breath. And I can’t ever seem to get enough breath. I am overcome. Wrought. And lost in the memory.
Like it was yesterday, rather than fifteen years ago.
I can HEAR her like it was yesterday, rather than fifteen years ago. First the shriek then the “TANYA." Like I’d come back from the dead.
I hadn’t of course.
We had just come back from Europe.
I abandoned my suitcase with him to run over to them, squeezing them both with a happiness I didn’t expect to feel. My mother beside herself with joy and tears that we had returned home safely to her arms. Both of us.
My father happy too. But in his own, quieter way. Mostly happy that we went. My mother happy that we came back.
We linked arms and chattered like we’d been apart for a lifetime, rather than three scant weeks all the way to the car, and didn’t stop talking the whole drive home.
Once home, drinks were poured and she could barely contain herself while we opened our suitcases to share the souvenirs we brought back for them.
Every item, a story.
The J LeBlanc et Fils pine nut oil from Paris and the ancient oil vendor who told us about each pressing. The Mariage Frères tea purchased at KadeWe in Berlin. The foie gras from Beaune. The poire William from Tours. The gag gifts of cheap lighters from every city. The silk scarf from the boutique near the Louvre.
Each gift made her exclaim with delight. Each gift made me wish I had ten more to give her. Each story made him counter with a story of his own. Each story made me wish I had ten more to tell him.
We’ll all go together one day, we promised.
I shake myself back from this memory, only to find myself, once again at the airport with my tears and my luggage and a fervent desire to tell the huggers to never ever ever let go. To never ever ever miss the opportunity to share time, stories, love with each other.
But I don’t, because I know it won’t save them from the stings and punches that are coming. In time. They will come in time. That’s just how love works.
They go, we stay, holding the memories, the broken promises and the silk scarves. And the grief.
This Sunday when we passed through the double doors, I tasted the familiar joy-grief cocktail. But this time, with tears stinging my eyes, I reached for my daughter and husband’s hands and felt good. Felt strong.
You see, we had just returned from a family trip to France precipitated by my father’s dying wish to have some of their ashes scattered there. So we did.
Turns out, we did all go together. Just like we’d promised. Different, and still.
Enduring grief, enduring joy. Different, and still.