I frequently speak of moving home and the tone generally revolves around business, finance and an overall connection with the people and area. All of those things play a large part. It IS where I'll be most successful and looked at as less crazy by people around me. However, there is so much more to it.
I spent almost 12 days back home, as 99% of my readers know. I love my family so thoroughly that being apart from them is no longer a possibility. For so many years, my mother and I would argue about everything there was to argue about, and some things that didn't seem possible to argue about. We have reached a closeness that was unprecedented with us and now I'm not there. I've always had fun with my dad and he's been so great to be around as a friend, dad and mentor. My brother and I hit an age range where the 4 years between us dissipated, yet we have only been able to enjoy it in fleeting, beer soaked moments. Of the 4 grandparents I was born with only 1 remains. Thankfully she still has her wits about her but will that last another 12 years as she pushes 100? Will SHE even last that long?
All of those things are also important, but we are adults. We get it. We don't like it, but we understand budgets and responsibilities and careers and professional necessities. As much as we suffer through the distance, there is that underlying thought of "it is what it is and it's necessary." That doesn't make it fair, but the rationalization becomes legitimating justification. Friends play the same game.
There is a class of people that doesn't apply to, however. I have a friend - Brian - who knew me before I knew me (he is 18 months older). Our fathers went to high school together. We may as well be brothers instead of friends. We were together constantly as kids, and less so as we aged, but have held friendship for 30+ years. Brian is married (I missed his wedding). He now has a daughter, Sophia, who is a beautiful, wide eyed 9 month old angel. I met her for the first time this last week. I fell in love with this little baby girl. I told Brian that my distaste for diaper changing is the only reason he gets to keep her. Sophia, like many babies, doesn't go to many people and takes time to warm up. After a short stint of coming from her sleepy car ride induce haze I reached out and she was passed to me. She looked unsure, then cracked a tiny, gummy smile and laid her head on my shoulder. She loved me immediately.
I also have a friend, Dr. Jim, who I've known for about 20 years. He has a son, Sean, who is 27 months. Sean is a brilliant, mischievous boy who can nearly read and knows to stop at the corner and grab daddy's hand before crossing. He also knows Uncle Jason and recognizes my disappearing act and so far he is not a fan.
The kicker is that Brian and his wife showed up with baby Sophia on the same day as Jim, his wife and little Sean. I was surrounded by wet, sloppy kisses of the adorable children of two of my closest friends in life. While this was so much fun and filled my heart with joy, there was something nagging at me so deeply the entire time that even the clean baby smell wafting toward me couldn't shake it.
Sophia is 9 months and Sean is 27 months. The last time I saw that little monkey he was 9 months old. I looked at one baby who stared back at me mostly vacantly and smiled most often from gas and then to the other who was more a little person than a baby and could peer into my soul as I held back tears and say, "what's wrong Uncle Jason?" the cute squeaky voice was enough to stem the tide of the tears so I could smile and say "Nothing Sean" and mostly mean it while while I hugged him. Incidentally, I could get choked up all over again recalling the story to memory in order to write it here.
The disparity in how they interact is obviously a function of time, but... it so clearly painted a picture for me. The felt difference in interacting with them is the exact amount of growth I had missed in Sean's life and the exact amount I've yet to miss in Sophia's - almost to the day - until I move home.
Sean is old enough to know I've left and that hurts. Sophia is too young to have a clue, making me a stranger on my return, and that hurts more. What hurts the most is that there is not a word in the English language that will explain it to either of them.
So for 20 months more I will endure and then I'll spend every available day doting on the beautiful children of my beautiful friends - all of whom have suffered at the hands of my decision to leave an entire decade prior, yet blindly supported me in my journey.
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