The phone calls of Mommmmm, I miss you. Mom can you believe it, I had to stay in the lab for two extra hours tonight because the phytoplankton counts kept coming out so wacky and I had ANOTHER problem set to grade. Mom, the man at the coffee caboose was so rude today. Mom, my car needs an oil change but I don’t have time to do it. I’m either working or teaching all the time and when I’m not doing that, I’m grading papers.
I don’t actually miss those phone calls. If I’m completely honest, I don’t. But I do feel a pang of something unnameable as we navigate this new juncture. The only other thing that’s replaced me in our whole lives together is our dog. And she doesn’t speak.
He has a name. He has many talents and he’s both smart and nice as my husband says. In other words, we love him already. And we see how she glows when they are together and how happy he is when he’s with her. What else is there to love we wonder.
And then they ask. Instead of getting my own apartment next year, the one on campus that I loved in the professor’s basement, remember that one Mom? Yes dear I do. Well we thought it would be simpler if we just moved in together. I’d save so much money and we’re already going back and forth and we’re going to be together forever anyway. It’s easier, they end with this and I know immediately where I’m going.
You’ve known each other for less than a year. And even after 35 years, I don’t know if I’m going to be with your father forever. Forever is more than a very long time. What about your relationship makes you ready for this? What about your relationship with yourself makes you think this is the time? If this is forever then you have only a few short months to live alone and the rest of your life to live together. This is not about convenience or money. It is not about forever after. It is about now and making sure that you self-actualize as much as possible before combining your lives. You are only as strong a couple as you are as two separate independent individuals. Don’t compromise that.
I think he was disappointed. Of course. But she tilted her head, contemplating the twenty-four year old fight she heard her father and me have last night because that’s how old we were when we got married, and considered. Brown eyes filled with tears of happiness about this choice and the confusion over what to do. Promising to consider further, we ended and I left her with the one who is first in her life. And as I watched them lean into each other, holding hands in the moment of that indecision, that painful place we were broaching, I saw our trust in each other expand, encompassing my prying concerns and I knew that already we were a family.