When Jesse was born 12 years ago, I was a Girl Scout leader for Kristin's Brownie troop. I loved it, loved the kids (who are all 19-20 now) and had so much fun with it. One of my girls was a darling little girl named Andrea. You may notice a recent picture of her in a post titled "For Andrea". It is a picture of her with Ciarra. Andrea is like my own in many ways, and her new baby Aislynn is family, too. They became my family when Andrea's mom (and dammit, I will admit, I knew the tears would flow writing this one, so forgive me as a I type with blurred vision) when Andrea's mom Wendy became my co-leader. Wendy was a single mom, kind of a redneck girl like me. We hit it off so well, and our girls did too. She doted on Jesse, was his wrestling buddy and biggest fan. She went with me when we picked up Alex in Connecticut, and when we buried him. She was there for me when Ciarra was born. We have gone through puberty in 2 sets of kids, I held her son before she did. I took the first pictures of her holding her first grandchild. Over those 12 years, we have become very close. It is that comfortable kind of close, where you can fall asleep watching tv late at night and she does, too. Where a weekend when they havent been here is rare. When the high sweet voice of her precious 4 yr old son Hunter isnt wailing "I wanna stay at Chelle's house!!"
Wendy is the best friend I have ever had. We look alike, we think alike, people either think we are sisters or lesbians, and I laugh more with her than I ever have in my life. She has listened and talked quietly many times, she let me tell her to "grow a backbone" and then listened to me whine when she did grow one and used it on me. She is my BEST friend.
We introduced her to our friend Rob years ago, and they have been married since about 2000. Jim was their best man. Hunter joined Wendys daughter Andrea and Robs daughter Amara, and was the glue that bound them all together. A few years ago, things got really tough financially, and they moved to Florida, to stay with Robs folks. I thought I would never breathe again. We had dinner with them the day before they left, and as I came through town with the groceries, I passed their house, and the piles of trash and throwaways waiting at the curb, and the sight of the trailer with all of their stuff in it undid me. I came home, cooked dinner, then tried to sit and eat, but I couldnt swallow. I left the table, and they left and drove away with hardly a word spoken. What words do you use? "I'll miss you"? It doesnt come close. For 12 years, we have done everything together. She is the sister that was taken from me through adoption. She and the kids come every year to help decorate the tree. Thanksgiving isnt Thanksgiving without our famous apple dumplings and all of us crowded around my little kitchen table laughing and eating till we want to die.
Rob and Wendy lasted about 8-9 months in Florida that time. They hated it. Too hot, too city, too far away. We stayed in touch, went down for a week and hung out, but the hole they left was so big that I could easily have fallen into it. I missed Hunter's voice, I missed Amara...who stayed here with her bio mom but might as well have been on the moon. I missed Andrea. But mostly I missed the best friend who made me laugh so hard I cried, and cry so hard I couldnt breathe. They came home finally, restarted their lives, brought back the baby boy who is a part of all of us...filled the hole in my sons heart that will always be Hunter's.
Life was good again. There have been fishing trips, camping trips, paintball parties, Christmas's, birthdays and illnesses, train rides, Halloween hanuted houses, a new Grandchild, Buddy Walks, life...
A few days ago, Jim told me that he had news for me that would break my heart. I thought somebody died. They might as well have. Rob and Wendy and Hunter are leaving again. Winters in Maine are grossly expensive, Rob is on disability and Wendy cant do it alone financially. They are broke, and behind. Once again, the allure of Floridas weather, Robs parents and a free place to stay to get back on their feet has won out. and we have lost. Once again, I am planning a gathering of goodbyes. But this time...Wendy hasnt said a word to me. She must know I know, but it isnt because we are chatting about it. We havent. I know only because Jim told me. I think she knows it is too painful for me to take without being angry and resentful and crying my damn eyes out. She isnt just my best friend, she is my family. This time feels like it will be forever, and HOW do you fill that kind of hole? How do I just smile and say it will be ok when all I can think of is how much I will miss hearing "Hi Chelle!" from that boy, and missing my best friend and almost-sister peeling potatoes on the weekends, hearing the guys BBQing on the porch? How do I just smile and say it is ok when i KNOW how much she doesnt want to go? when Andrea will be here, and Aislynn...and i know she will cry all the way there wondering how she can drive away from first steps, first words, first birthdays? And what about Amara? will she be lost to me, too? I cant breathe for thinking that half of what feels like my family is being taken away. This time, I think, Florida will become their home, and they will make it work. And I will never walk away from maine and its woods and mosse and people. We can talk by phone, no doubt. But in my heart, this is the end of one of the best parts of my life. I never had much for family, as a kid. Certainly never anything/anyone I could count on to be here whenever I needed them. (extended family I mean) My only sister was given up for adoption.
but this is not just me hurting. Rob is Jim's best friend. Wendy is mine. Jesse & Amara have been buddies since the days we dressed them up in "wedding clothes" and married them off. Hunter and Ciarra are best of friends. Kristin and Andrea....it is all of us. We match. We understand one another, get each others jokes. even our dogs are siblings. How do you just lose all that? I know people survive this, but right now I cant breathe. My heart feels like it is on standby, and the tears have flooded my nightgown. And I have to go get groceries and gather up kids and dogs and bathing suits and head out to camp to face whatever awaits me, to say goodbye a thousand times, in my mind. To watch Hunter play knowing that the next time I see him, he will probably be much taller, much older, and not so excited about "Chelle" anymore. To watch Jesse slowly get used to the fact that his beloved Hunter, and Wendy (who has been a HUGE part of his life since he was born, closer than family) will really not be coming over to play WII tonight, or make him blush, or get him to smile. To hear Ciarra ask, over and over because this is simply too big to really understand.."When is Wendy coming home?"
And I have to do it all while trying to remember to keep breathing and not cry. Im not sure I can do that. Who was it that said big girls dont cry?
6 hours ago