I went into the military a few days after High School graduation. I grew up in a stable middle class family and the world looked pretty big to those nineteen year old eyes. It was big scary and exciting all at the same time and being at the cusp of starting a new life was like being near the top of the roller coaster. You have not taken the first big plunge yet but oh boy the click clacks of the track are getting faster by the eye flit and it was too late to jump off now.
At the airport saying goodbye to my family was not the experience I had imagined. In my fantasy of that event everyone was beaming with pride as I, the young soldier was taking off on the first of sure to be many adventures. Mom had tears in her eyes as she smiled with radiant love as I tossed out jaunty waves and strode purposefully down the ramp to my awaiting aircraft. I mean where were the Hallmark people? This event was worth watching and note taking for the next set of holiday tear jerkers.
I did not expect the tearing sensation in my heart as I pulled myself out of momís final hug at the gate. I quickly turned away lest anyone would catch a good look at my eyes and I escaped into the airplane. With each step I could feel life change around me. I was leaving not for the summer but for good. When I came back it would be as a guest in the house not a member of the home. Life sure has a way of demonstrating that there is a distinct difference from the fantasy of ignorance and the reality of experience.
I am older now, nearing forty. I have had a lot of goodbyes and it does not take long to train your heart in the disassociation needed to get the whole thing over with. This is training for the real goodbye of death that hopefully is an experience held at bay until adulthood. Funerals of friends and family are more intense in their sensation but like all other experiences the more you have them the less strange they feel.
Today my wifeís family returned to Korea after spending two months with us over the summer. After fifteen years of being together this is the first time we have been blessed with her family being our guests. It was a fantastic time but there came a day when we knew there were fewer days to come than days behind and each new day began to build an expectation of sadness for this day. I am not sure you can really prepare for how your emotions are going to impact but I did know that today was going to be a tough day for us.
It is hard for my wife who spends years apart from her family to have days like this. After spending months together you become a family unit albeit a different one than you had originally. And with each new good by that delicate union is torn apart causing new feelings of grief and loss.
I wish we had endless funds that could prevent this pain. If we had millions of dollars in Swiss banks we could jet over once a month for a weekend like other families travel from city to city on day trips. I guess the best I can do is just be there to help her pick up the broken parts of her heart and hold her while she cries.
But that sure donít seem like enough.
Read more articles by Michael Wilmot or search for articles on the same topic or others.