Most of us have a part of our life that we detest. For some it is a job, or traffic, or a person. What I detest about my life started almost seven years ago, when my children’s father moved seven hundred miles away. I don’t detest him. Or even being a full-time single parent, especially with autism in the picture. What I detest is having my boys gone for several weeks every summer when they visit him. And they just left this morning. I cried in my empty house, missing them already.
I can tell myself, I need this break, I can enjoy the seven weeks of not stepping on Legos or Nigel’s rocks or sticks or tools left out in the middle of the floor, seven weeks of having a clean house and only myself to cook for, and seven weeks of coming and going as I please. I can remind myself that they need to spend some time with their dad, who loves them and cares for them, whom they miss so much.
And I can distract myself with my household projects that pile up during the year, adventurous activities that I wouldn’t be able to do with my sons (one summer I went skydiving, this year I plan to climb a 14,179-foot mountain), spontaneous weekend trips with only myself to pack up and feed, lengthier trips that I can only afford to do on my own (China three summers ago, Slovakia and Greece last summer). I have also been asked to come back to my job part-time this summer, which will get me out of the empty house and help out my bank account as well.
And so I will make it through these seven weeks, as I do every summer. In earlier years, I couldn’t make it that long without seeing the boys, embracing them, smelling the tops of their heads. About half-way through the summer I would go down to visit them, which I think they needed as much as I did. Now that they are adolescents, I force myself to trust and take a step back. Last summer I did not visit them and will not this summer either (mostly for financial reasons, truth be told). This is hard on us, but it’s making us stronger as individuals, and stronger as a family. It enriches our lives with new experiences (they get to do a lot of fun stuff in LA that they can’t do in southern Oregon) and learning how to work through difficult emotions. But even with the positive aspects I can find in this situation, I miss my sons more than anything.
After they drove off this morning, I walked through the house and saw a pair of Nigel’s socks left out on the living room couch. Two nights ago he had taken them off and lay down on the floor with his feet hanging over the arm of the couch, facing me where I was sitting. He waved at me with his feet, which are now bigger than mine. And I thought of Aidan’s feet, and how he borrowed my water sandals the other day because he’d grown out of his. I wonder how tall they will both be when they return. But mostly I just think of how good it will be to have them home. And even though I love not stepping on errant Lego pieces, I love to see them strategically littered throughout the house, reminding me of my sons, that they will be back before too long, and I will hear their laughter (and occasional bickering) and embrace them and smell the tops of their heads again.