Flashbacks of a girl in an airport flood her mind….
Her hand pressed up against the glass, her teary eyes leaking onto her flushed cheeks. She was saying goodbye to the man who had captured her teenage heart, as he headed back to college. She tried to control the sobs that made their way up through her constricted throat.
This was not the first time he had left. And she had no way of knowing how far it would be from the last.
A woman standing next to her tried to encourage her:
“Don’t worry, honey. You get used to it after a while.”
This was, of course, little comfort to a 17-year-old girl who didn’t want to get used to it. Who wanted his absence to be so infrequent that she would never get used to it, that it would always hurt her from the inside out.
She did not know then, that in some ways this stranger was predicting her future. Two out of three years of this courtship being long-distance, was only a foreshadowing of a traveling job that would separate them over the course of their lives.
The woman with those haunting words handed the girl a tissue to dab at her tears.
A sort of white flag of surrender to the reality of his leaving.
But it was only the beginning…
Thirty plus years, five children and 11 moves later would be wrapped in a career that would take him away from her again and again.
Every time it was hard. But,
every time it got a little bit easier.
She became strong.
Emergencies were tended to in his absence.
Independence was formed.
She discovered things she didn’t know she was capable of.
Warrior qualities emerged.
And he always, always returned.
She learned that these times apart were not meant for pining away but served as great opportunities of growth and learning.
Over the years, she no longer needed a Kleenex when he left, because history proved that his return would be all the sweeter. That communication would deepen with every phone call.
That love would bridge the gaps of distance.
They faced death and change and sickness and trauma and failures together, even when he was a thousand miles away.
They enjoyed life and adventure and dreams and successes together, even when they were in two different time zones.
And when distance would do its best to come between their hearts (and sometimes succeeded), circumstance and Providence would draw them back together to that lovely place of unity and connection.
They raised four beautiful, wonderful children together in this fashion. Children who learned the value of communication, the flexibility in change and the confidence that love can cross every boundary of time and place and circumstance.
Others didn’t always understand this arrangement. Couldn’t comprehend its worth in the face of loneliness and angst.
She didn’t always understand, herself.
There was no forewarning of a traveling husband at the altar. Some would say it wasn’t what she signed up for.
But, at that altar, neither she, nor anyone else knew that this man would take her gypsy feet and adventurous heart to places she never could have dreamed. To meet people and see things she couldn’t have imagined.
She couldn’t have known on her wedding day that distance would breed closeness, that separation could form a bond.
That love would prove itself again and again – three decades of absence making their hearts grow fonder.
A beautiful, wonderful, crazy life….
Memories fade as present reality sets in.
Today, he left yet again.
China-bound for 55 days.
This would be the longest separation since their college days of so long ago.
And for the first time in a very long time, she once again reached for that tissue, her white flag of acceptance of another good thing in the making….
(I love you to the moon, Mark Hilton, and can’t wait to hear the tales of adventure that await you. And I will be right here, creating a few of my own, as I eagerly wait for you to come back once again. Thank you for our beautiful, wonderful, crazy life!..xoxoxo)