Anyone who knows me knows I am really close to my family.
When choosing where to go to college, I had a couple prerequisites in mind. It had to be a good school that encouraged studying abroad, it had to have an active student body and potential for Greek life, it needed to be diverse, and it had to be far enough from home (rural, northern N.J.) that I felt like I was living my own experience away from my comfort zone of family and friends … but close enough that my parents could visit (or I could go home) for a weekend.
American University in Washington, D.C. was a perfect fit for me. AU had everything I wanted in a college experience and then some. At American, I held lots of internships, was active in my sorority (Chi Omega), studied abroad, found lots of diverse friends … and was easily able to go home or have my parents visit every couple of months.
While living my life in D.C., I was fine. Sure — I missed them, but between phone calls, emails and visits, we made do. But then every time they would visit or I’d go home, I’d find myself a sobbing mess when it was time to say goodbye.
Then senior year of college I met Luis (who was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy). He was living in Annapolis and I was in D.C. I’d be soooo happy while we were together all weekend … and then on Sunday nights when we’d have to say goodbye, I’d be a wreck. Because of where he was at school, he couldn’t just always meet on a random Tuesday because I was sad … and Wednesdays were a mandatory study night back then for all mids where they couldn’t go off the yard (not sure if that has changed now). So I got used to not being able to have him by my side on a whim, which proved to be really critical because after graduation I stayed at AU for another year to do my master’s degree and he returned to El Salvador to serve in his country’s navy. We did long distance that first year, visiting one another every couple months — which wasn’t easy. My life was fine — work, friends, gym, a busy social life … but without him, something was definitely missing and it was always evident when he’d leave. Our hellos were always so beautiful and our goodbyes so, so painful. After I got my master’s, I moved there for eight months and taught English. While it was a great experience, unfortunately, I made $3/hour and had to move back to the U.S. and get a “real job” to pay down my student loans … which meant we had to go back to the long distance thing for another couple years (including his 8-mth tour of duty in Iraq in 2005–after which we got engaged) and it just got harder the more time passed and the more in love we were. Finally, in 2006, Luis got a great job offer with his current company and we got married and moved to Michigan. Nowadays our goodbyes are the normal day-to-day kind as we leave for work — muuuuuch better! And even when he goes away for the occasional business trip, it’s really no big deal compared to what we used to deal with.
But while moving to Michigan meant I was able to finally be with my love, it meant I was no longer an easy car trip or train ride away from my family.
Which brings me to today … and really every visit with my family. I miss them always but we talk on the phone and Skype and email regularly and visit whenever we can, so I’m completely fine and happy with my life here 99% of the time … but then they visit (or I go home to N.J.) and when the trip is over, I am overwhelmed with sadness and can’t stop the waterworks. Today was particularly tough. I’m 33 and yet as I watched my parents pull away in their rental car, waving at us in the window … I turned into a complete baby. It feels like when Luis and I were long distance: we’d look forward to each visit SO much, and they’d always be so awesome and then … BAM, they’re done and life goes on and the blissful time together feels like an eternity away within days, kept fresh only by memory and photos. That’s what happened today: another painful goodbye at the end of a beautiful weekend together. And, just as would happen when he’d leave the U.S. or I’d leave El Salvador … I just lost it.
I knowit could be worse — and I do feel fortunate in so many ways — and yes I’ll see them soon — possibly in February, if we can fly home for my mom’s birthday and if not then, definitely in April when we go to Jamaica for our annual family va-k … But April just seems so far away and it’s hard not to want to have a pity party.
Sometimes you just need a good cry. I was pretty much a wreck all day and felt bad that I wasn’t being the mom to Maya (or the wife to Luis) I wished I could have been — especially after my new year’s resolution to be more present. Tonight after we ate dinner, I got Maya ready for her bath and, per usual, put her on the potty. She’s only peed successfully I think 6 times since we began the pre-bath potty ritual in June but tonight, it’s like she sensed I needed something to be excited about: she peed, and not just a tinkle! Then as I rocked her to sleep, out of nowhere she whispered “Te amo.” Of course, this drove my emotional wreck of a self into tears yet again … but this time, they were happy tears. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m sad about my parents leaving, but I have to say — this little girl of mine was able to turn my frown upside down.
In my perfect utopian world, we would live our same little life we lead here … but be closer geographically to my family. But since that isn’t the case right now, I have to look at the bright side: we had a wonderful visit and I know we have a regular Skype date on Sunday to look forward to. Somehow, that little ritual takes some of the sting away.
And there’s always Jamaica! 🙂
How about you? Have you ever been in a long distance relationship or experienced family living really far away?