Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Phantom Limb

As I mentioned in the last post, Uncle Bill and Aunt Jackie came up from Florida last weekend to visit. We really didn't do too much more than go to the zoo, per their request. A little bit of down time was much needed by all.

I left work at 2:00 after opening the office early that morning and took the Metro to the airport where I hopped off and met them just as they were dragging their suitcase off the conveyor belt. We decided to forgo DC traffic and the cost of a cab and Metroed it back to Falls Church where Elise and Clementine met us in the Kiss n Ride lot. We got to the house just in time to walk to the end of the block and meet the boys as they were getting off the bus from school.

Both Sam and Pete were excited to see them. Neither knew quite what to say, but both smiled awkwardly at the unexpected sight of them and tucked in for "back hugs" (noncommittal hugs which is about as much as you can expect from a six year-old little boy).

With us all there having disembarked from the bus, I looked around, gathering my flock to cross the street and head back to the house. I saw Pete, Sam, and Clementine. Elise had come, too, and, of course, Jackie and Bill were there, but for a split second, I paused, sensing that we were missing someone...that our party was not quiet complete. I say this not out of sentiment, but to convey a fleeting yet powerful feeling, like being jolted awake in the middle of the night by a dream your falling.

The sensation was gone as quickly as it had come. I realized I'd been looking for my mom...Nanny...but she wasn't there, which was unnatural. I would look for her again once or twice over the weekend, perhaps forgetting for a split second that she wasn't there when so clearly she should have been that it had tricked my subconscious.

But parents carry a lot of weight and parenting is just one of them. The boys are still getting used to my ever-changing work schedule, and no matter how many times I tell them at the bus stop in the morning that I am working late and won't be home until after they go to sleep or as I am tucking them in at night and tell them that I won't be there in the morning to pour their cereal or their juice, they forget (or weren't really listening in the first place) and are inevitably disappointed when I don't show up at dinner time or am already gone when they crawl out of bed in the morning.

Elise and I posited that Sam misses me more when I have to work at night and Peter misses me more when I have to work in the morning, but Peter pretty much smashed that theory to pieces when I got a text message from Elise yesterday afternoon, "Can you call and talk to Pete?"

I immediately called. Peter picked up, answering in a small voice. When I asked him about his field trip to the farm, he immediately burst into tears. Sobbing into the telephone, he wailed, "I want to sit next to you tonight!" Ouch.

It quickly became evident that Peter was not going to be able to compose himself enough to talk so Sam got on the phone and told me about that caterpillar in his classroom that was forming a chrysalis on Friday and in a few weeks would be full-grown butterfly.

I worked until after ten, way past the hour Elise stopped responding to my text messages falsely holding out hope I would be done any time soon. By the time I did get home, everyone was long asleep. Then, I, too, was no more than a phantom, made ethereal by responsibilities outside of being a parent.

I probably bear too much self-inflicted guilt for not being around more, even though I try and mostly think I am around a lot. And especially try to be present when I am home. But I wouldn't have it any other way. The day I stop feeling guilt would mean I also stopped caring as much as I do. I bear these burdens proudly and feel fortunate that so many people do depend on me. It is an honor to be trusted by them even if they don't know yet they have a choice to trust me.

The fact that they miss me as much as they do, is incredibly ironic, because when I am there they mostly ignore me, to the point I have to repeat myself three and four times to even be heard or have them acknowledge I exist. Sometimes, sadly, we are more powerful in our absence than in our presence. 

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