In the spring of 2009, after I entered the beginning phase of my unexpected life but before my divorce was final and I moved to Utah, my oldest came to me and invited me to go for a drive with him.
It was dark, late at night, but you never turn down an opportunity to spend time with your children. Especially at their invitation. Especially living through what we were living through. We were all we had.
We got in the car, he drove, and he headed away from the city lights toward the rural areas near our neighborhood. Pretty soon he spoke. “Mom,” he asked. “Do you WANT to move to Utah?”
Clearly, the move was on his mind and I couldn’t blame him. He was one of the few kids today who had lived in the same house, with the same schools and friends, never moving, everything the same, since he was eight months old. And now we were moving to begin a completely new life his junior year of high school in another state. Not quite the ideal time for such change. But then again, is there ever an ideal time to lose your entire life and everything you have ever known? At barely 16 years old?
How did I answer that?
With the truth.
I told him I’d been a Colorado resident since 1974 and had lived in the Denver area, with the same phone number, for 20 years. The only time I had left Colorado since then was to attend college, and even then, I loaded the moving van THE DAY I graduated from college and returned to Colorado. I reminded him I had built my entire adult life in Denver and living in Colorado was all I had ever really known. Most of my friends were in Colorado. Would I choose to leave all of that? Would I willingly do it if I didn’t HAVE to?
But the job I desperately needed and had been hired to do (and was grateful for) was in Utah. Try as I had to stay in Colorado, everything had worked out for a new life in Utah. I had come to realize and accept that. I truly FELT that Utah was where we were supposed to go, for some reason.
My son looked at me with a shocked expression. (I guess I hadn’t complained enough about all of the changes and the move because he hadn’t realized the move might be hard for me too.) But it seemed to help him to know that the move was difficult for me too.
Kindred spirits in our grief.
So we made the move. It would be less than truthful if I didn’t admit IT WAS HARD. There were moments I wondered if my oldest would be scarred for life from the experience. It terrified me when I’d make the last round through the house late at night, before I went to bed, and I wouldn’t find him in bed. (That happened several times.) In a panic, I’d search the entire house and not find him. And then I’d eventually discover him outside, in the dark of the warm summer night, on the front lawn sobbing his grief.
It killed me. I couldn’t help but join him. All I could say through my tears was, “I’m sorry. I am SO SORRY that this is the life I have given you. I wanted more for you. You deserve more. But I promise you, I am here for you and will do anything I can to help you. Someday it will be all right.”
But inside I wondered how it, and he (and if I’m being totally honest, me, too) would ever be all right.
We endured the slow start to adjusting and making friends in a new state. We endured all that switching high schools entailed. It was hard for him to let go of his old life. Not the money–the life, the friends, the place he lived, the activities he participated in, everything BUT the money, actually. He felt as if he had lost everything.
In a way, I guess it was good for me. At the time I was so sick with worry about my children and helping them get through their experiences, I couldn’t really even take a moment to think about myself. I had to focus my effort and energy into helping my children make the transition, and as I did, somehow I made it right along with them.
Fast forward several months. And that same son came to me and told me he liked Utah. And then one day he told me he liked his new high school better than his old one. And then he told me he was happy and felt completely normal! I knew, then, that we had arrived. And everything really would be ok. All right.
Fast forward a few more months. And last night, my son got home from work at 11 p.m. and came to check in with me. The house was quiet, everyone else was asleep, and he invited me to go for a drive. All I could think about was the last drive I remembered taking with him. In Colorado.
I must have looked surprised, maybe even hesitant, because he entreated, “Come on, mom. I haven’t seen you all day. Lets talk.” You never turn down an opportunity to spend time with your children. Especially at their invitation.
We got in the car. He drove.
He talked to me about life and his contentment, happiness and joy with all of it was evident. He asked me about my life, and I told him how good my life is, but did share one small worry with him. He stopped the car, smiled at me, put his hand on my knee, patted it, and told me it would be all right.
And it will be.
Both he, and I, know it.
We just keep driving. And eventually, everything IS all right.
Our destination? Peace, happiness and joy…in our unexpected life. All right.