Like a middle-aged Cinderella, I got an invitation at the last hour to Comic Con this year. Acquiring the necessary tickets/parking/ place to stay two weeks before an event sold out since January seemed the fool’s errand. But magically and more magically, it all fell together. So I kissed my husband and kids, and left on an actual business trip, something that has never-ever happened to me in my whole married/mothering life.
I spent the weekend drooling at the convention center spectacle until I acquired awe-inspired brain damage. Was then whisked past velvet ropes and security to parties. Swag bags were hefty. Interiors were glamorous. People were Very Important. I went a little fan-girl, screaming quietly behind closed lips most of the time. But by-far-best-of-all, I was dropped deep in the midst of a culture of people who said, “Hey, follow your dream, girl. I did it, and so can you.” Instead of what I usually encounter, which is a skeptical eyeball over backyard barbeque cocktails and someone muttering, “That’s a great little dream you have there. But hey, don’t quit your day job.” Honest to God, felt like Bee Girl in that old Blind Melon video.
Last weekend, I drove up to see my parents. They’re moving to the Midwest for a year. They are doing this because they came to live with me when I desperately needed them. Last year, Middle sister needed them to help care for her new baby while she finished an internship, so they moved to help her. Little sister has no kids or desperate need, but my father believes there will never be a year past this one that he will be able to give her anything of himself. So my parents are moving to stay with her, if only to be together while my dad still knows who he is.
My parents willingness to move to be near me seven years ago has gone a long way in healing me. I spent a lot of my teenage and young adult years with panicky abandonment issues. Now, as Mom and Dad are moving away from me again as I’m 38, I can still feel that icy clench in my heart. I still have a reflexive gasp when I turn my mind to it, like I’m being tugged underwater. But I’m (at least so far) not howling with fear. I’m no longer unraveled like I was as a child, afraid I might die (or I had already died, and that was why I was alone). I am in awe that something so broken in me from childhood could be repaired in any measure as an adult. Is like watching a cigarette burn in silk repair itself. It might not be whole cloth yet, but anything coming back from the char is miraculous.
When I drove up, their house was half-packed, in disarray. My father talked happily about joining a country club in their new town, with plans to golf every day and make friends with the workers there. It didn’t take long to understand this was his stepping stone to adult day care, his hope that familiar faces and routine would both help him stay in himself, and that the employees would learn his name and be kind to him if he got confused.
Later, Middle takes me aside and mourns the loss of our mother as her full time babysitter. “Even if they didn’t go to Little’s, they couldn’t keep on the way they have. It’s gotten to the place that Mom can’t take care of my baby and Dad too.”
I bump into my dad in the hallway. “Sorry,” I say reflexively, since I am in his way.
“Don’t be sorry,” he says. Not joking. Not harsh. In this voice I remember from being a kindergartener, and he’s teaching me to fish. Instructive and with purpose. It’s the second time he’s reprimanded me for being apologetic, and I realize he wants me to learn to be a little more like him, and stand up for myself, and quit fucking apologizing for my own existence. It doesn’t feel like a deathbed request. Not yet, anyway. But it is that creature’s distant cousin.
Later, my husband gives directions and uses the term “strip mall”.
“What is that?” Dad asks, face honest, a student of the world.
The same thing happens when my kid asks the difference between dill and sweet pickles. “What’s dill?” he asks. When I tell him, no look of recognition crosses his face. No “oh, duh. I knew that.” Just curiosity like a little kid: that’s what makes dill pickles taste so? It is oddly as endearing as it is horrifying.