I am beginning to associate maple seeds with losing daughters.
Shortly before we lost Shannon from Sugar Pine Circle, I wrote this:
Shawn and I went for a walk tonight while it got dark. Under the glow of the streetlight, maple seed helicopters shone white and messy across the asphalt road. I picked a perfect one and brought it back to the house. Shannon and I played with it in the open foyer, tossing it from the top of the stairs and watching it spin down.
Yesterday Laura drove away in our van.
I spent some time thinning my zinnias after she left, and the helicopter seeds spun madly down from the maple tree, buzzing and shining like dragonflies. One hit me in the head, sharply. Perhaps they will germinate and give me a big weeding job to do in a week or two. My shoulders sag and I plod along.
This weekend, Laura will graduate from college, and then, a few weeks later she will get married and move to Ohio, and that will be that.
She has the van so she can begin on her move to Ohio. It doesn't make sense to schlep her things to Illinois from her Pennsylvania school, and then take them back to Ohio a few weeks later.
When Shawn and I got married, we were still in college, the University of Minnesota, so there was, at least, a buffer year before he got a job in Syracuse, New York.
I remember leaving Minnesota.
My parents are not big on teary good-byes. They prefer to avoid them, so I do not remember much about leaving my own home. I do remember leaving Shawn's red house on 40 acres in Cokato. We stood in the yard, in the hot sun on the south side of the house where the driveway ran down. Everybody took a turn hugging everybody else, and Shawn's mom had tears in her eyes.
I remember being disconnected from her tears. Used to my own mother's stoicism, I felt strange, and not particularly sad. "We will be back," I told her. "We'll be back in a few years." She nodded and tried to smile, looking very much as though she did not believe me. I remember this as though it were yesterday.
My sister and her husband moved to Connecticut. They lived there for a few years; she even had her first son there. And then they moved back to Minnesota. I thought this was how it worked. You went off to another place, got some work experience and a more advanced degree, and then you moved back.
But not us. We stayed in New York for twenty-five years, and then we moved not to Minnesota, but to Illinois.
I watch Lulu moving to Ohio, and my heart swells up like a water-balloon into my throat.
She was my buddy, the one who stuck by me. As a toddler, she followed me around and helped me with the chores. If I was making beds, she would hold the pillows and fluff them up. If I was washing the floor, she would take her own little cloth and scrub away at a spot she saw.
I have a way of forgetting what is in my hands and losing it, so I learned to take Lulu shopping with me. I could hand her the shopping list and be sure that it would not be misplaced, even if we went to a number of stores. Also, she often remembered things we needed and reminded me, even if they were not on the list.
It seemed that perhaps she was a special gift from God, an angel of helps sent gently to compensate for the fact that I had never had a mother or a sister (or any other kin) nearby to lend me a hand with life.
Lulu was the one who knew how to keep track of upcoming dates, the location of David's homework projects, and whether we had gotten meat out to defrost for dinner. I depended on her, probably more than what was fair. But she didn't seem to mind, she seemed to thrive on holding us together, which she did with grace and crazy talent.
She went away to college, and I felt as though my right arm had been cut off.
She drew back and I learned to get along without her. Not gracefully, not as well as before, but I learned to survive. I guess she'd figured it was time. Without her, we misplaced a bunch of stuff, and the house never looked as pretty, but we ate dinner most nights and I cleaned the toilets regularly.
The distance widened, and then we moved to Illinois, and it widened some more.
Now she is marrying, moving to Ohio, looking for a teaching position, because she is a cracker-jack of a teacher. The inside of my throat stings as I realize: teachers don't transfer districts.
I want to beg her to stay close. I want to cry out that I have been longing for grandchildren to dandle on my knee, grandchildren to know and to love and to read Go Dog Go. Not grandchildren from Ohio who cry when they are left with me because they do not know me.
I want to beg and plead, but I know that this is wrong. Wrong. Yes, it is the way I may feel, and it is okay--maybe even good--to love someone and long to be near her. But I need to let her go, allow her to be the person God created her to be, and to do the things that God created her to do.
I need to let go, and it hurts because life is painful. It just is. Doing the right thing is not often easy, and I am a messy, clumsy person galumping along making awkward attempts.
The image of Shawn's mom, teary, hugging us goodbye before we hopped into Shawn's little Chevy Cavalier and drove off to New York, that image keeps passing through my mind. I thought the arrangement was temporary, but she knew it was not.
Sometimes I hate interstates.
There are a lot of mangled maple seeds scattered on our front porch and strewn among my zinnia seedlings by the walkway.