My snowbird parents have flown the coop. They left this morning to head back north to upstate New York. This day is always bittersweet for me. I miss them so much when they go; our family just seems empty for a week or so until we adjust to our "other" life. Two less places at the dinner table. The leaves and dirt pile up by the back door (my mother makes it her personal project to keep the driveway and backdoor swept). The debris of life-with-kids starts piling up in the backyard--buckets, large pieces of wood, cast-off objects that Jesse collects from other people's trash piles. These are the kinds of things my mother tends to. She likes our yard neat and orderly, as do I. I am thankful that it looks this way for half the year!! The rest of the time, the yard seems to be endlessly full of junk. And my supply of stamps and envelopes, which my father shares with me, will soon disappear. I'll have to actually go to the post office for the first time since November. No more running off to Walmart for a quick errand while I leave the kids with mom and dad. And Duncan can't run over to Oma's to play Rescue Heroes or grab a snack. No more of Dad's memoirs told around the supper table at night.
But here is where I know I am blessed: next year, barring any surprises, my parents will come back again. Next November we'll wait for that green car to pull in the driveway and the kids will all run to hug their grandparents. How sad can I feel when I know I have this to look forward to? This year my best friend's mother died, and hospice has recently been called in for her father. Before this year is out, she'll have lost both her parents. Already, she says, she feels her family drifting apart with their mother gone. Already she and her siblings have separated, retreating to their own homes and sliding away from each other.
I want to share these last years with my parents with relish. I am dropping things next year so that my life isn't so crowded that I can't enjoy a Saturday night game of cards with my parents or a short shopping trip with my mom. I want to soak in Dad's stories and get them down on paper. Next year they'll both be in their 80s, and every year I see them age a little more. I want to embrace every moment I have with them.
Randy cut the grass for the first time this afternoon. I'm glad he waited until Mom and Dad left. Mom loves the lawn carpeted in spring violets and tiny buttercups. But her jasmine blooms on. I love those little living touches they leave behind.