There are two times I’ve heard my mother cry while she is in the shower and I in a nearby room.
The first was on the day of her mother’s funeral. We were at my paternal grandparents’ house, which felt out of place and unfamiliar. My parents lived on opposite sides of town and we always took time to visit both families, but we only ever stayed at my mother’s parent’s house. My mom’s mother moved out of her house awhile before she passed, so we began to stay at my other grandparents’ house until they too moved to a smaller, more manageable place. This new routine still hadn’t settle in when my grandmother passed away in November 2003. Since my dad grew up in a large family, we all got our own rooms when we stayed at his childhood home. I chose to sleep in my Aunt Margie’s room because she had a brass daybed that I secretly wanted in my room. That room happened to be the closest to the bathroom. I woke up to my mother sobbing the day we buried my grandmother. This five minutes-or-so was her personal time to grieve and I was eavesdropping. I could only hear, but my mother, the person who always seemed to have it together, appeared vulnerable for the first time to me. I hugged and held my mom a lot that day, but for some reason, I felt the closer to her at that moment than any other. I wanted to fix her pain, which was so visible through pouring water and two sets of walls, but I couldn’t.
The second time was nearly two weeks ago. We were in a hotel room in a suburb of Minneapolis. Months ago, my mom gave my dad tickets to a U2 concert, which is one of three musical acts my dad ever seemed to listen to (the others being Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones.) They also purchased Twins tickets to make a weekend out of it. A couple of months ago, Bono had to have emergency back surgery and postponed the tour. Devastated, my dad decided they would still go to the cities in order to see the glory that is Target Field. However, when he realized that that week was my last one in the country, he offered me his ticket so that my mother and I could spend as much time as possible together. “Your mother wouldn’t be happy if she was there and you were back here.” So we went for the game and last minute shopping. It was a wonderful time, but it came on the heels of saying goodbye to all of my friends. We constantly reminded each other that there would be no crying on this trip and we stayed true to our pact, well, in front of one another. Once again, I woke up to the sound of my mother crying in the shower. This time, it was for me. Again, I couldn’t fix the pain.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you know how hard it was to say goodbye to my friends, and it still is. Yet, the worst goodbyes are yet to come.
This weekend, all of us are back home and spending a few days together before they have to return to work and I have to leave. It’s been fun to joke and pick on each other, and just be together. Actually, the last month has been like that. I’ve spent most of my time in Pierre just being with my family and it’s been absolutely incredible. Sure, I miss my friends, but this was the best way to spend my final weeks in the country.
I can’t accurately describe how much it hurts knowing that will I miss these moments in the next few years. Holidays, birthdays and other events will go on Heather-less. My brother is getting married next year and, although I’ll be there for the big celebration, I’m won’t be there for the little things such as wedding showers and making sure my future sister-in-law picks a good font for the invitations. (We have a bit of a deal. If they promise to use good fonts on the program and invitation, then I promise not to have dreadlocks or braided hair for the wedding.) Those are just the good things; I won’t even let myself think about the horrible things that could happen in two years.
My family is very supportive of my decision to go to the Peace Corps, but it’s not easy. It’s taken me some time to understand that, but having someone you love be so far away in such an familiar place isn’t something you can just say “Oh, OK” to. It’s hard, which in turn is hard for me.
I hate that I make my mother cry. I hate that I see this sadness in my father’s eyes that isn’t often apparent. I hate that I’ll miss so much. But I want my family to realize, and myself I suppose, that I have to do this in order to be a better daughter and sister. I have to do this to make myself happy, and that’s ultimately what they want for me.
It really stings my heart when their eyes start to red or drift in another direction when someone brings up my service. I know they are happy for me, but still. I do believe that it will be hard to be away from them, but it’s something I must do. I am going to miss these four people more than anyone, and, also more than anyone, these four will be the happiest when I return.
My dear family, I love you and will miss you greatly.