I keep staring at the screen. I'm having a hard time trying to find the words that I want (trust me though, it will come to me). Normally, I'm not so quiet. Although that is only part of it, because I keep having to stop and wipe away the tears and stop to regain my composure.
This morning I bid good bye to my husband, Jim and my oldest daughter, Angel as they travel to Mexico for a church missions trip. Not forever, mind you....at least that is not the plan. It's only for 10 days. Perhaps 10 of the longest days of my life. My heart is feeling like it's being pulled apart at the core, the pain is so deep. For our family, this separation is not normal. Not at all. It makes me realize I live in quite the little bubble of security with my family.
Jim & I have been together for over 17 years. A quick recap, for those that don't know our history. We had our first date in May, he proposed to me in July and we wed in December. All in the same year. Since that time that we wed, we have only been apart from each other 2 times. Jim traveled to Guatemala when I was barely pregnant with Angel, our first born. We had only been married a few months. Granted, that was a long time ago, but I don't remember missing him so much. At that point, I had not even known him for a full year. It was so different back then, though. I do remember packing up my bags & going back home to family, to hang out with them while Jim was gone. I was young and full of newly wed bliss. Not nearly as much responsibility rested on my shoulders while he was gone.
7 years ago I traveled to Mexico to visit family with my dad, sister and nephew. It was the first and so far only time I did something big on my own without Jim & our 4 kids that we had at that time. I was only gone for a week. I seemed good & strong for the first few days of the trip, then it all came crashing down and I missed my family something fierce. As much as I love my family in Mexico and REALLY enjoyed my visit down there, I couldn't wait to get home to Jim & the kids.
Jim & I have done little things on our own. I get the occasional girls weekend away. He goes to work conferences once, sometimes twice a year and those are always within the state of Illinois. I'd say though, apart from those minor things we don't spend time apart. No more than 2-3 days at a time. I can't speak for him, but I have always "hated" it when he is gone. I hate that feeling of knowing that he is not coming home to crawl into bed with me that night. If he goes out with the guys and doesn't come home until 3 a.m., I do not care, because I know he's coming home. I go to bed knowing that when I wake up he will be by my side.
Angel, is getting ready to turn 16. I lived in a blissful state of motherhood ignorance for 15 of those years. Then last year that changed and it seemed to come out of nowhere (It's like the boogie man jumped out and I went running & screaming for my life.) I suddenly realized how close she is to adulthood and leaving our nest. Legally, she can leave our care in 2 years and never look back. Because of how her schooling fell, she has 3 years left of school, so that will keep her home longer than we can hope for. And we don't anticipate her flying to coop the day she is 18, but it could happen. With each day and each milestone that passes I realized how much closer we are to that day when she is ready to take flight and leave home. (annnnnd, that just brings on the tears again).
When we got married Jim was not only working full time, but taking a full load of college courses to earn his BA. Before we could even say "how do you do that?" I was pregnant. (Angel was born 10 months & 1 day after we got married. Do the math.) So taking an immediate honeymoon was not in our plans. She was 5 months old before we had something planned and took our official honeymoon. I distinctly remember leaving her at my mom's house and driving away. I remember my heart feeling all wretched like it is now. Leaving my baby girl like that.......annnnnd cue the tears again.....
A few months later, Jim & I had to leave her again for 2 1/2 weeks while we both traveled to Germany for military duty. That was a tricky trip for Jim & I. On the downside of it we had to work and due to our different jobs we had to sleep in separate barracks on opposite sides of the base. On the positive side, when we had free time or days off we had a great time traveling the country and sightseeing some neat things. The downside took it's toll and combine that with leaving, at that time, our only child, we decided we were not going to do this on a regular basis. It was not in our family's best interest. Since then we have not left our children for more than 1 night. Even then, we have only done that a handful of times.
Of course, there are normal life things along the way. Slumber parties. Staying with the grandparents. Church camp. We are not a clingy, our children can't live without us and vice versa family. This last year, though, more outside of our comfort zone, big things have come up with Angel. When she went to Gadet/dance camp last summer. It was the first time we let her go with people we don't really know. When she went on the Snowblast ski trip with the youth group in December, it was the first time we spent a holiday without her. Just in June, she went on a camping trip with the church and spent her first father's day away from Jim.
I'm suddenly realizing how long this is taking me to sit here & type this out. I'm a fast typer, but I keep stopping to think. Stopping to remember. Stopping to cry. I haven't looked yet, but I'm sure it's rather lengthy too. This is me, though. I have to talk the living life out of something to better process it and then I feel much better. In a nutshell, these big away from each other trips are NOT normal for our family. It's taking a big emotional toll on me.
Jim and I am are not a big super mushy, you are my best friend couple. In fact, we drive each other crazy. Too much of each other and we are at each others neck. While I love Jim's sense of humor, I tune him out most of the time because it drives me C~R~A~Z~Y!!!! I don't need to spend my every livin' moment with him. Same with my kids. I have never felt inclined to homeschool. Heck, no, get these kids away from me. Get...go to school!
So, why, does this bother me so much?!?!? I think at the very core, no matter how we function as a family, they are my all in all and everything to me. I know this, even if I don't go around proclaiming it all the time. It's things like this trip that have it all up in my face and forcing me to deal with it in raw, real way. For Jim, he is my rock, my everything. It's amazing the things you take for granted in a spouse. His driving me crazy is what makes my world go round and round. For Angel, it's just another step closer to releasing her to own adulthood. It's inevitable. We can't stop kids from growing up. It's a reality that no matter how good or bad of a relationship you have with that child, it's hard to deal with.
I haven't even begun to touch the top of the subject of what if something happens to them during this trip. Sure, our church has taken several missions trips. The youth take trips all the time. Every single time, they all come back, safe and sound. But it's a fear at the back of every person's mind. This is post 9/11, ya know. This will be Jim's first plane trip since we went to Germany 15 years ago. This is Angel's first plane trip EVER!
I have the harsh reality of spending 10 days without either one of them. This is the longest in well over a decade we've all been apart. I don't think I'm handling it too well. I keep trying to hold it together for the sake of the other kids. Per usual, I will be packing up and heading to Iowa to spend time with family & friends. I need the distraction. But it is what it is and I'll deal with it as I go along the way .