My son and his wife of seven days (typing that just seems amazing) are somewhere in Jerusalem right now. In Israel. Yes, the one that is seven hours time difference from where they live in Alexandria, VA and where I live in Connecticut. I was pondering that the other day. For my honeymoon, my husband and I went on a Carnival cruise. We went to Grand Cayman, Cozumel and New Orleans. It was the first time I’d been outside of the US save for Canada (because every good Detroiter has gone drinking in Canada). My son has been now to Spain, to Croatia, and to Israel. He’s passed through France for connecting flights, twice. What a different life has than I did.
What a different life he has than I ever imagined for him.
At my son’s wedding last week, after he and I shared our emotional mother/son dance, I walked him back to his new wife and hugged her hard. Then I went back to sit at my table, with my husband and our two much younger children. Within a minute, there was my father, red in the face and clearly just as emotional as me.
Maybe more so.
“I remember the day he was born,” he struggled to tell me, tears flowing from the corners of his eyes. And he was right. Of the hundred or so people standing in this room with us, there were only three of us who were there the day Zach was born. My sister, myself and my father. My brother was in the Navy in basic training at the time, and met him about a month or so after he was born. Everyone else in the room met him sometime later in his life.
It was hard, at that moment in time, staring at my son and his lovely wife in this gorgeous hotel ballroom, with everyone dressed in their finery, to imagine what those days were like. My father had literally been there since the moment this boy was born; he’d been my Lamaze coach. He’d watched this young man come into the world, take his first breaths. He’d been ultimately supportive after his initial skepticism regarding my “situation”. I was 18 and alone when this little baby came into all of our lives, and life could have turned out very, very different than the moment we were all experiencing together.
But what was overwhelming all of us, as my sister had now come to join my father and I, both redfaced in the front of the room together, was my mother’s absence. “She should have been here,” my father said next, putting his head in his hand. “She would have been so proud of him.”
Seeing my father cry about my mother is truly a humbling experience for me. While my father has been with his partner since before my parents’ marriage ended, it’s clear to me that he truly did love my mother. While the demise of their marriage was fraught with difficulty, fighting and anger, eventually everything settled in to the way things were supposed to be. In fact, I always kind of thought that my pregnancy at 18 and my parents banding together to support me and my child truly was the last step of pulling them back together as a family unit, if not a married one. And when my mother passed, my father was there to hold her hand along with us kids. It was my father who helped us eulogize her at her memorial. They had a clear and deep connection, and it is easy for me to forget that on a day to day basis. I suppose I deal with my grief often about my mother, but my father likely doesn’t. So it is in these family moments where it comes roaring to the surface for him, still raw and harsh, even twenty years later.
In some sort of awful way, it made me feel good to see him that affected by her absence. That while his life is very different now, the affection he had for her was real and true and honest. I held him and told him about the wedding song, and how sure I was that she had a role to play there. That I was sure she was watching all of us here, this night and smiling from wherever she was, happy to see her beloved first grandchild so successful, so sure of himself, so clearly in love. “She loved him so much,” I said to my father and my sister, which gave them both a fresh set of tears, but gave me a strength and surety that stopped my own.