Grace

The Skype window flickered on,

Revealing my boy and his dad

Granulated and dimmed by a

Few thousand miles of ether.

They were giggling together.

My boy on his dad’s lap in front of the computer

Trying to squirm away

The dad’s large hands

Gripping the narrow ribcage

The thick fingers digging in

For the tickle.

Both of them laughing

White teeth flashing.

“What are you monkeys doing?”

I asked,

Feigning disapproval.

My boy

Broke free and

Scampered to the other side of the room,

Where he stood panting and laughing,

Watching his dad.

Who said,

“Okay, it’s time to talk to Mom.”

The boy walked out of the room,

And his dad said,

Apologetically,

“He’s hungry.

He’s gonna have some ice cream in the kitchen.”

No tears for Mom,

No wails of longing,

Or I miss you.

Later,

Thinking about my boy

And our Skype time,

I was glad

That my boy is

Having fun

Without me.

I get it now.

That parent’s mantra:

“All I want is for you to be

Happy and safe.”

Incredible, the

Complex and paradoxical

Layers of

That kind of love.

That I could be happy and grateful

At the same time I’m

Sad and grieving.

When other parents say to me,

“I could never do what you do,

Be away from your child for months at a time.”

I always say with the assurance of

One who has experienced grace,

“Yes you could,

If you had to.

I hope you never have to.”

The hours before my boy leaves for the summer

Six hours before my

Small boy’s

Plane leaves,

And he and I are at the zoo.

I’m always the one who wants to come here

Before he leaves for the summer with his dad.

“I don’t want to go to the zoo,” he says as we’re leaving the house,

But I don’t give him a choice.

The impervious rhythms of the animals

Are a comfort to me.

And anyway,

He likes the sharks and

The giraffes and

Buying lunch in the cafeteria and

Cotton candy from a cart,

And a small toy from the gift shop.

Today we were watching the snow monkeys when my

Chest tightened up like a drawstring.

Nine weeks, he’ll be gone.

The gestation period of a dog.

Today driving here, I thought

There must be other mothers who put their

Kids on airplanes for the summer,

Who dread the last days of the school year

(“Any fun plans for summer?” people ask.)

Who take extra pictures and videos,

Who think melodramatically:

“What if he dies while he’s gone?”

Before remembering:

“I suppose he could die here with me, too.”

I say cheerily,

“You’re going to have so much fun this summer!”

Smiling,

As a tear tracks down my face.

And he will.

He’s got his life over there, too.

I don’t share much in it,

And that’s okay.

He’s not mine, really, anyway.

It soothes me to think that

He’s a child of God out in the world,

And I’m one of his guides.

Among my many duties,

I take him places like the zoo,

And let other people take him places

Without me.

On airplanes even.

Airport good-byes

About to leave for the airport

You would think that the

Airport

Would be a devastating place for us:

For me, and my small boy,

And his dad.

The good-byes we say just outside security,

His dad or I knowing we won’t

Squeeze the small body

For months.

But,

If you thought the airport was,

For us,

A scene of tears and

Drama,

You would be wrong.

We made an unspoken

Pact,

His father and I,

To have fun at the airport.

We send him off

With fart-kisses on his stomach

And tickles around his neck

And swooping hugs.

And laughter.

On Sunday, it was his dad’s turn to say,

“See you soon,”

And go through security

Alone.

In three months,

It will be my turn to say

“See you soon,

When school starts again,

Buddy,”

And watch them go through security

Together.

I know from experience

That for me,

The tears come at the moment they disappear from view

Behind security,

Looking not back at me,

But forward toward their

Gate.

It wasn’t my turn to

Say good-bye today.

But when it is,

On the ride home

I will turn off the radio

And let the tears run.