He was asleep as I nestled into the sheets, but he sensed me there as he has for the past 10 years. So he rolled over toward me and slipped his little arm around me, holding on tight.
Eventually sleep took over and he went one way while I went another, but for a good 20 minutes or so, I lay in my bed, eyes open, not thinking about much of anything, as my little boy clung to me. My outside arm curved around him in a protective embrace and our breathing grew syncopated, rising and falling in unison.
And while I love my husband, I know I could live without him. I choose him; I don’t need him.
My kids, though, that’s another story.
I know they will grow up and move away, sooner than later, and I know that is what they are supposed to do.
But this nurturing, this listening, this encouraging, this unbridled love, I’ve never known anything like it. It is intoxicating, addicting, beautiful and heart-wrenching.
Tonight, my children will leave me for 10 consecutive days, and I know it won’t be easy. For the past couple days, they’ve shared their worries with me, and their desires not to leave.
But we are a divorced family, and there are times when they will be with their father, and not here. It just so happens he chose an uninterrupted week that bumps up against Labor Day weekend, which he has this year with the kids.
So 10 days, unfettered, prolonged.
As for me, I’ll work and play and socialize and exercise and it will be time well-used. I’ll enjoy the cleanliness of the house and the quiet, and I’ll eat only when I am hungry and not because the food is on the table.
But still, I will miss them.
Last night, as I read a chapter to Shaya of the Harry Potter book we are racing to finish before school starts, he threw his arms around me and started to cry. “I don’t want to go,” he wept. “I wish I could be with you forever.”
So I let him fall asleep in my bed, and then stay there all night, and my wonderful husband said, “No problem. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
There are moments that I know why I married him, and this is one of them.
This morning, I awoke but lay there, waiting for the little guy next to me to rise as well. He did eventually, rolling my way and slipping a hand beneath my rib cage. “I could never live without you,” he whispered and my heart broke. I said nothing, simply held him tight, knowing he was talking about an immediate change, and not anything bigger than that.
But after attending the funeral of a young mother last weekend who left teenage children behind, and spending a week of “stay-cation” with my wonderful family, cherishing these moments just being together, whether traipsing through Greenfield Village or frolicking in the neighborhood pool or arguing over the dinner table, I don’t take any moments for granted.
Life is a series of choices, isn’t it? I chose to divorce my children’s father nine years ago because it was the healthy thing to do for all of us – even though that means there are pockets of time when my children are away from me.
I can look for the glass-half-full explanations of it all, and they do exist, but that doesn’t make the transitions any easier.
In the past few days, as the children have voiced their dismay at having to leave, I’ve said things like, “That’s why it’s so important to live every moment fully” and “We’ll get through this” and “It’s not about how much time we have together but how much we appreciate the time we do have.”
I meant it all. It just doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.