Mondays with Mom: Absence


Last week, I took a vacation with my daughter Julia to Los Angeles. We stayed with my high school roommate who I hadn’t seen in 33 years. It was a wonderful trip and we made lots of great memories. I couldn’t help but think about Mom every day we were gone. Her absence from my daily life was profound.

I didn’t see Mom from Monday until the following Thursday. It was almost 10 full days apart from her. Usually, I’m an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of person, but I missed Mom every day. Part of my intent with the vacation was to take a break and rejuvenate. Traveling is stressful, however, and I longed for home most of the time!

This was the longest break I’ve had from Mom since 2010. That summer, the James Gang took a trip around America and saw 22 states in 33 days. I was spending lots of time with Mom back then, but not nearly the amount of contact we now share. I was not surprised at the intensity of my longing for home while in California – I’m really a homebody – but I was surprised at how much I thought of Mom even though I was a long way from her.

One of my best travel experiences was with Mom. The summer after my senior year in high school, I went to visit my sister who was living in Germany. I went for three weeks as a graduation present and Mom joined me for the last week. My precious niece, Megan, had just been adopted so we split our time sightseeing and loving on that sweet baby. We bought train passes and went to see the Matterhorn and Lucerne and Dachau. Mom was a good traveling companion and we made many sweet memories on that trip.

Now Julia is almost the age I was then and I’m close to Mom’s age. I hope Julia will remember this recent trip with the same fondness I have for my Europe trip with Mom. There were many times in LA that I realized the similarities of the two adventures. Although we weren’t in a foreign country – sort of, but not really – I felt very protective of Julia as we walked around. Los Angeles is very different than Europe in 1985, but as a mom, I was hyper aware of danger. Mom was very sheltering in Europe and I was a daredevil so I’m sure I kept her on edge during our travels. Julia was the opposite of me; very wary and nervous, but I saw her kind heart in many situations with strangers – a different kind of daredevil.

Mom and Dad traveled a lot. They quite literally went all over the world. Dad is reluctant to travel now because he misses his travel companion. He would still love to travel, but his favorite person is pretty much confined to a chair in their living room. After this trip, I understand better his reticence.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” What happens when your heart is so full of fondness already? I missed her and kept thinking of how much she would love the ocean or this restaurant or Madame Tussauds. She wouldn’t have loved the smells or the crowds or the heat – and I didn’t love that part either!

Sitting beside her now, I realize how much she is absent from my life even here. We can’t travel around Clarkesville to shop or eat at restaurants like we used to do. She’s not able to sing in my choir. We don’t share our thoughts or memories any more. It’s a very different relationship and her absence is evident everywhere.

It’s more than a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Her absence makes my heart ache.

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