I was out running the other morning.  The sun was rising over the Twin Lights on Thatcher Island, and I kept stealing glances at the sky while trying to avoid tripping in the various potholes and landing in the puddles that make up Eden Road.   The tide was low, and the rocks were dark with moss and seaweed.  White curls of waves lapped and licked at the growth upon the granite stone, the water rose up like deep breaths from the sea.  Morning sunlight twinkled on the water, catching hungry gulls and ducks off-guard, thinking bird-thoughts about flashing fishes.

I was listening to the Corrs playing “Haste to the Wedding”, a rollicking jig that rolls into a reel, when I realized you were gone.  I don’t know if it was the music, the sea, or the pace of the run that slammed the knowledge into me.  Perhaps it was the nothingness of it.  In a really good run, everything becomes nothing.  I don’t think.  I just am.  I am a wide open space, and that morning, you rushed in.  With every breath, every stride, every beat of my heart, I knew a part of my life was over.  And somehow, in my day-to-day waiting for you to go, I had not noticed.

I felt a tiny ache thinking I had missed your going.  I wondered, as I turned onto the road between the marshes, should the ache be bigger?  Do people cry?  I didn’t feel like crying.  I smiled as each breath pulled in and flowed out.  As I hit the soft sand along Pebble Beach, I thought of the summer you surfed on the next beach over, Cape Hedge, and how I worried only a little each time you tumbled into the waves as they crashed the shoreline.  I thought of the way you surfaced in your black wetsuit, your straight blonde hair dripping ocean into your green eyes.  The way you grabbed your bright blue board and headed right back out to catch the next wave.

I smiled  again, thinking you have a headstart on me, because now I must wait for your sister, too, to go.   I attacked the hill rounding up Penzance Road, pushing, pushing, pushing hard to the top, and began the long, slow climb up South Street.  I burst past Emily’s house and remembered you and her together, that first girl, that first perfect year you had, and then the second not-so-perfect year.  I think of all the nights you and she cried over and for each other and how many nights you turned to me to talk.  You learned about love, loss, anger, moving on and starting over.  You shared it all with me.  Somewhere in there, in that learning, you were packing to go.

I didn’t put a lot of thought into the actual going part.  I looked forward to it, to not wondering where you might be when you are not home, to not trying to be quiet in case you were sleeping late behind your closed bedroom door. I have looked forward to your next stage in life, when you have the chance to figure out who you are and who you want to become.  I have equally looked forward to my next stage.  Even though I love you, and your sister, and have always loved being your mother, I’m feeling ready to spend some time alone with your father, and to regain some of the freedom that I gave up to be a full time mother twenty years ago.

Last year we packed your things to go, gathering fresh bedding in extra-long twin size, text books, a new pair of warm winter boots– remember when I splurged on those soft green suede UGGs?—and boxes of gum, crackers, tea, and a water filter for your room.  You came back home nearly every weekend and it was as if you hadn’t left at all.

At the end of your second semester, you moved your clothes and shoes, bedding and books, and your self back. You were soon up to your old tricks, heading out to the beach every day, then to work in the late afternoon, slipping in the front door quietly in the middle of the night while the rest of us were asleep.  Your room looked like the center of a cyclone.  You used the floor as an enormous shelf, littering it with damp towels and board shorts, dirty tee shirts and open water bottles, papers, mail, and text books from your last semester.  I hated to wake you, but I never saw you, so I peeked in around noon each day if I was home, just to look at your long strong man’s body thrown carelessly across your bed in sleep.

When the time came for you to return to school this year, I let you pack and get ready by yourself.  I thought you would like privacy and space.  I also thought it was time for you to learn to do this without me.  I did help you with the actual move into your new dorm.  You and I lugged heavy boxes and bins from the car up flight after flight of stairs, and down the long corridors to your apartment.  It was like hauling rocks. I wondered what you had packed.  Everything?  When I returned home, your room didn’t seem very empty.  No wonder you used your floor as a shelf.  And still, I hadn’t really thought you’d gone.

This semester, you don’t come home on the weekends.  You call once in a while, and you send me text messages. You ask how I am, how the rest of us are. You talk about your courses, your roommates, and skateboarding from class to class.  You sound both settled and excited.  During this run, it occurred me that you talk to me.  You told me this week that Tuesday is your laundry and grocery day. You!  Laundry and grocery day!   I never expected you to be so ready, so good at life right away.  And I guess I wasn’t sure that we’d keep the same kind of relationship we had when you were younger, particularly the way we easily communicated, when you left.  I did not let myself count on it, in case you turned out to be one of those boys who left and never looked back.

I picked up the pace for the last third of the run.  Long, hungry strides propelled me toward home.  I sprinted and I grinned to myself.  This is why the ache is so very, very small.  I know you will never really be gone.

Explore posts in the same categories: Run notes that run into life

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2 Comments on “Gone”

  1. Craig Reed Says:

    Wow! I am floored by the emotion of that entry. That was amazing, Elizabeth! It brought up so many feelings within myself while reading it… understandably. That was some great writing.

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