Got my son back

People asked in the days before I left

To bring my boy home,

“Are you excited?”

“Yes,” I would say

Slowly.

“Of course.”

But the truth is,

It’s not excitement I feel.

It’s relief.

Relief because this

Separation

Is nearly at an end.

Relief because I’m nearly whole again,

Whereas when my boy is gone,

There’s a bit missing.

So excitement?

I don’t get excited about much these days.

I’m a tough sell.

Steadiness and

Peace,

My watchwords,

Preclude excitement

For good or bad.

Relief is the right word

Relief to squeeze the small body to me.

(It is painfully unnatural to

Not

Touch your child for

Months on end.

Painfully.)

My separation time is over for now,

Which means his father’s is just beginning.

At the airport

His father watches us go through security.

I hoist the boy up three or four times to wave.

His dad stays until he can’t see us anymore.

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Six days till I get my boy back

On Friday, I fly to Finland to

Bring my son home.

We’ve been doing this for three years,

So I’ve got some experience with the

Airport reunion.

Last year

When I went to get him,

I hadn’t seen him in person for

Seven

Months.

(Every-other-day Skype chats

Make this all possible.)

At the Helsinki airport

I came out a different door than

He and his aunt were expecting.

As I came up from the side,

I could see him

Standing on his tiptoes,

Looking for me to come through the

Security doors.

Smiling.

He was smiling.

That’s important.

I grabbed him from the side;

He never saw me coming.

The body was stout and thicker than I remembered;

The giggling face rounder.

Leaving the airport,

He became shy with me and

Ran up to his aunt,

Grabbed her hand.

No way, I thought.

I scooped him up,

And gave him a fart kiss on his belly,

And he laughed,

And had no problem holding my hand after that.

After seven months in Finland

He wasn’t speaking any English.

There were times I had to ask his aunt or his father,

“What’s he saying?”

But I decided:

I’m the mom,

And I’m not going to waste one minute not acting like it.

I’m not going to

Ruminate on

What it means

That I have to ask someone to

Translate for my own son.

No.

Stop.

Act like the mom.

Take him to the bathroom.

Pay for his lunch.

Help him put his shoes on.

Choose his clothes, and help him get dressed.

Don’t stop and think.

No analysis and no self-pity.

(Even jet-lagged.)

Because there he was at a Helsinki park:

Scampering to the top of a small cliff,

The sun in his butter-yellow hair.

He pointed to where he wanted me to stand,

Then leaped off the rock,

Laughing,

His solid body hurtling toward me,

Completely trusting that I’ll catch him.

“Saada minut!” he yelled.

Get me!

I will, buddy.

That’s why I’m here.

My parents’ 43rd anniversary

Aug. 3 is my parents’ anniversary.

43 years of marriage.

My father cues my mother to stand up from her chair:

He takes her hands and says,

“One, two, three, up!”

She looks up at him expectantly,

Wanting to do a good job.

A good Girl Scout, she used to call herself.

Sometimes it takes a few tries

For her to get it.

Finally, she bears down on his hands

And pulls herself to standing.

“Good up,” Dad says, pulling up the waistband of her pants,

Which had slid down.

In their wedding picture,

My father’s tux pants were a couple inches too short.

My mother is wearing the sleeveless straight white dress

That she let me use as a

Halloween costume when I was the

Bride of Frankenstein’s monster in high school.

It’s a color picture

But it’s faded into yellows and greens and grays.

43 years.

Last year we were at a wedding.

My younger cousin and her new husband

Came out of the reception hall

Into the hotel lobby to say good night to

Aunt Marti and

Uncle Bob.

My cousin hadn’t seen my mother in years,

And I watched her wedding smile

Freeze up

As she tried to greet my mother

Who stared unblinking at her for a moment,

And then started fidgeting with her dress.

This is marriage.

A white-haired main leading his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife by the elbow

Into the parking lot of the hotel,

Into the dark spring night.

The script my brother and I wrote

Was that

Mom

Would take care of

Dad

In their old age.

If you’d known them then,

You would’ve thought the same.

She was the one feeding us vegetables at every meal.

She was the one balancing the checkbook at the dining room table.

She was the one deep-cleaning the oven at night.

God chuckles at scripts like that,

And shores up my father for his

New life.

She did take care of him for many years.

And now he’s taking care of her.

Not always with perfect patience or skill.

But with a

Willingness and a

Devotion that’s a

Small miracle.