In July of 1999 Stan and I left the world of military life behind to embark on a new journey. We came home after living in Germany for three years and began to make Louisville, Kentucky our new home. Stan went from being a military intelligence officer to being a drug rep with a small pharmaceutical company. His path in the civilian world began with a bang when the company offered us an all expense paid trip to Hawaii for a business meeting.
What a sweet reward for being with the company less than a year, I thought to myself. I was over-joyed, elated and ready for a little fun in the tropical paradise of Maui. And then reality hit. We had two little boys. Zach had turned four a couple of months earlier and Lucas was 18 months old. Taking them with us seemed like a practice in torture with a nine hour plane ride, a big time change, diapers, wipes, bottles and a pack and play all crammed into a hotel stay. But leaving them behind was going to take some major arranging and planning. The wind was knocked out of my sails a little.
My parents weren't equipped to handle two young, energetic boys; they lived in Kansas and my mom was still working so they were out of the equation. Stan's parents owned a grocery store in Maine where they ran every aspect of the operation and were there seven days a week, plus they still had two kids of their own at home so they, too, were out of contention for watching our two.
Luckily for us, one of our army friends stepped in. They were stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, a mere three hour drive from our house. They had one daughter who was three weeks older than Zach and they were easy going and lovey. It would be a simple drive there with the boys. Then we could get a flight out of Nashville and on to Hawaii. It seemed like the perfect solution.
My excitement grew. It was the first time Stan and I would have some time alone together since having the boys. I packed, repacked, organized and got everyone ready for our trip. Finally the day arrived and we headed to Ft. Campbell.
We unloaded the car, set up the pack and play, gave the the boys' schedules and our cell phone numbers to our friends. We kissed the boys good-bye and went to leave. But I couldn't get myself out the door. Just one more kiss, I thought to myself. One more hug. One more round of baby giggles. Just one more of everything. Stan started pulling me out the door, my friends started pushing me out the door. "The boys will be fine," they all said. But I needed another hit of their baby-sweetness. I didn't want to leave.
They all persisted and I went glumly to the car. I opened the passenger door, saw their sweet faces stained with tears because we were leaving them. I almost went back for another round of kisses and good-byes, but Stan was unrelenting. It was time to head to Nashville. Stan put the car in reverse, backed out of the driveway and headed the car down the road.
We made it almost a block before I had Stan pull over. My face was hot. My palms were sweaty. Nausea bubbled up from the pit of my stomach. I was ready to throw up. I was leaving my babies and it made me physically ill to think of their tears and sadness because we were leaving them. I got out of the car, hung on to a street sign and gulped big breaths of air working to quell my roiling stomach. I was trying to pull myself together, but I was failing miserably. I didn't want to leave my boys. I did. But I really didn't want to.
This morning at 3:11 I woke up with that same sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was nauseated. My face was hot and my hair was sticky with sweat. I couldn't catch my breath. I couldn't get comfortable and I couldn't go back to sleep. My thoughts were swirling from the minute I jolted myself awake and my thoughts kept returning to the same thing...we're going to be leaving Zach soon. We're going to pack his clothes, towels, sheets, toiletries and his life in trunks. We're going to load up the car and drive him to college. We're going to leave him there and I'm going to want to go back for one more kiss, one more hug, one more round of anything I can get before I leave him. But this time it will be my tears, not his, that I'll be battling. Unfortunately in life, this is what we have to do. We have to say good-bye sometimes. We have to let our kiddos go sometimes. And we have to let them grow. But that doesn't mean I have to like it and it doesn't mean I still won't make Stan pull over to the side of the road when I'm ready to throw up.
Oh, for the love of my children....