The day my children are to fly to Romania with their father and stepmother, I am awakened at 5:30 by the loudest planes I can remember flying over my bedroom. They are so loud and they fly over again and again and again, so that I remember my friend Ruthann’s plea to organize the neighborhood against this intrusion. She could not sleep. I cannot sleep.

I wake up and am compelled to write, which brings tears, now actual sobs, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been compelled to write, and that has felt scary. But today I get up, put on first my robe, then instead a pair of boxers I’ve had for years and yesterday’s tank top, no chance of being seen in my house at 5:30 am, but still I need clothes to write, and head downstairs to what has become, to what I had come to call, “a room of my own”, only to realize as I do that just as I have finally, after twenty six years, created a room of my own, I am finding myself in a home of my own, and as I do, I am weighing each little thing, flight pattern changes, the longevity of the day care, my aging, my parters’ aging, my daughter being away for the summer, my son’s return from college this spring, the price of rental units in Somerville (which I watch obsessively each day, comparing them to my own apartments up and down, wondering what I could get for rent if and when I move to Western Mass, if and when my children leave the nest, get launched), the dust accumulating on my daughter’s doll house and Playmobil castle, all that I weigh against my life here, my life there, wondering if and when I too will take flight, leave my life here and make one somewhere else.

It’s a terrifying thing to write about. Add to that a year or two of menopause, and I am hardly sleeping. Planes be damned, they are only a small part of what wakes me up too early, of what keeps me from a full night’s sleep. Yesterday I read about bipolar disorder, more or less ruled that out. I can’t count one bathroom painting in Somerville and two garage clean outs in Ashfield last weekend as a manic episode, nor the episodic sadness at being without my guy or my kids as depression. All this is what we do in midlife, give away our stuff, say good bye to our children, weather and endure divorce, re-partner and remake our lives as best we can, downsize, shift, grow if all goes well, but also lose and lose and lose and lose, fertility, youth, children, partners, parents, homes, friends, work, community, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, cash, stuff, life. Gradually it all goes, bit by bit by bit.

For those of us used to building, making, acquiring, partnering, bearing and raising children, it comes as quite a shock. How can we watch it go away, let it go away, give it all away, with a spirit of generosity, not clinging and crying as we do? How do we let our children grow up and away, say good-bye to partners who helped conceive and raise them? How do we help them on their way, say good-bye and let them know that when they’re gone we’ll be ok? I don’t know. I’m trying and it’s hard.

Right now Richard’s kids, who have practically become my kids, our kids, are on wild adventures, too. They are grown up and we still worry. One is in Nunavut, above the Arctic Circle, white water canoeing in a place so remote and possibly dangerous it made me cry when we parted two weeks ago after seeing Hamilton in New York, made his sister seem almost jealous of our worry, as she reminded us she is going to be away,too, which she is, hiking over a hundred miles in the mountains of Colorado with a thirty pound pack on her barely over one hundred pound frame with her new boyfriend, not yet divorced from the husband I was just growing to love, gone like the daughter I fell in love with when the first day I met Richard, who is now the son I love, now paddling down the river in Nunavut, for whom I cried my first tears in New York. We fall in love, things change, we keep on loving, anxiety and anticipation of loss be damned. That is what mothers and fathers, what people do, all life long.

I mourned the end of pregnancies, the end of nursing, the end of babyhood, toddlerhood, the end of my children’s time with me in day care, their moving on to public school, then to private school an hour away, and for my oldest, and my middle ones, to college. I mourned the last chances I saw to have another child. Now I’m considering how to send my last, my third, my baby, off and it’s killing me. The end of something feels nearer and nearer.

Another plane flies over. Like a punctuation mark it intrudes, draws me back to the flight pattern theme. Things change. We expect one pattern in life and get another. A daughter becomes a son. A married daughter falls in love with someone else and re-partners before she’s divorced. A wife/mother falls out of love just as the third child enters middle childhood. A husband/father falls in love and becomes engaged to someone new the week the couple goes to divorce court while the wife/mother, (both husband and wife now nearly exes), goes on retreat, while the kids are with their grandma, where the wife/mother takes them. The first child goes to college a year early, the second stays in high school an extra year, stays in college less than one, moves home. The daughter switches high schools two times in one year, goes to boarding school for the summer where she is accepted to go for the fall, maybe will, maybe won’t, for what would be her junior and senior year, if it works that way for her, hard to know, take three could be anything. The mother experiences an empty nest over and over and over again, until she is about ready to fly away herself, the scariest move of all, she imagines, thinks her children will imagine, but perhaps they won’t.

After years and years of talking about it, after years of dating men from far away, of spending weekends in their homes, of visiting open houses in Western Mass, how could she surprise anyone, least of all herself? Still most days it comes as an unbearable shock to picture packing it all up, moving away, moving on from the life she’s built and built and built and built all the years she’s called herself adult. From her own leaving of her parents’ nest to the leaving of the one she has created, she’s lived and worked here in this home for nearly all of it. From twenty four to fifty is a long, long time.

Most of young adulthood and now much of middle age she’s spent tearing off wallpaper, painting over it, around it, painting the newly exposed and pock marked old plaster walls underneath it when the plaster was solid enough, painting the newly skim coated old plaster walls when the damage needed covering and they could afford the plasterers, the gutted and rebuilt with new blueboard and plaster walls of the day care bathroom remodel this spring, or the new plaster walls of the third floor remodel eighteen years ago, or the drywall walls her former father-in-law hung in the day care kitchen when they remodeled that the winter her second son was born twenty years ago. All those walls have needed her attention, and she’s given it, one evening, one weekend, one vacation day at a time.

For nineteen of those twenty six years she had a husband who helped, ripping up carpet and layers of linoleum, sanding and polishing floors, ripping up the asphalt driveway and leaving the rocks and dirt to wash away in layers in every single storm. The bricks meant to pave that driveway are now piled in the side yard, carried there years ago by her children who she paid a penny a brick to move them from the driveway where they were first piled by her husband’s father before he left, after he paved the sidewalks and imagined paving the driveway but before he did.

Those bricks now hold the tiny Weber grill she bought herself after giving up on the gas grill she had bought her her husband one Father’s Day, which had rusted out and ruined the burgers she tried to grill the first Father’s Day after he had left. That gas grill was tossed over the second floor porch railing by her brother on one of his trips to help her get her house in order in the years after her divorce when her brother was getting his own life in order and had episodic time to help. He brought her relief the day he tossed the gas grill over the porch railing and drove it in his pickup truck with the old water heater and downspouts and other scrap metal he found under the porch and in the basement, and the rusted smoker grill her husband left behind, which used to live where the brick pile and the tiny Weber live, which had been carted up from Texas by his father one year in the truck they’d bought him when his own life was coming apart. All that old life was carted by her brother to the scrap metal dealer the day the Boston Bombers were first at large and then found, when the city was absolutely silent, on lockdown, the same day Richard, the man who was about to become her new boyfriend, maybe someday her new partner, was on his way from Western Mass to meet her, one week after she met him and his then daughter/now son in his home, to start their new life together, one moment, one tossed gas grill, one tiny Weber at a time.

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