Cheryl Hughes: Hard Choices
You raise your children to break your heart. This thought came to me as I was packing away Christmas decorations. There is a finality to undressing a Christmas tree, to taking stockings from the mantel, to removing lights from porches and shrubs. Yes, there will be next year, and November will bring excitement and anticipation all over again, but for now, for this moment, it is a difficult task and an emotional time. For me, anyway.
I think it’s like that for me, because at Christmas, my house is full. Our daughter, Nikki, and her husband, Thomas, drive in from Louisiana. Our daughter, Natalie, and her husband, Scott, and our granddaughter, Sabria, bring their presents from Bowling Green. We have a big meal, then open presents from each other. We watch a movie, like “Christmas Vacation” or “A Christmas Story.” We eat too much dessert because I make too much dessert. We listen to one another, we interrupt one another, we talk over one another when our turn to speak has been delayed to the breaking point of our manners. All the things that go on in a million other households at Christmas time. But this is my house at Christmas time, so I take it personally when everyone leaves.
A friend said to me once, “It is always easier to be the person who leaves, rather than the one who is left.” He said this in reference to a congenial parting of ways, not a breakup. He was right. We raise our children to leave the nest, to take flight, to soar on their own. We do this, because we know we will pass before they do, and to not do this is to cripple them
This Christmas was particularly hard, because as Nikki and Thomas were driving up from Louisiana to spend a few days with us, they got a phone call telling them one of Thomas’ family members had tested positive for the Corona virus. They had spent time with his family a few days before. The call came when they were a mere twenty minutes from our house. They and their two dogs had been on the road for over nine hours.
Thomas let Nikki make the decision. Nikki called me and said, “Mom, I can’t do this to Dad. (Garey has Cardio Myopathy, as well as the A-blood type that is particularly susceptible to the effects of the virus.) We will have another time when we can be together. We’re going to drop off your presents on the porch. We will wear masks and gloves. I’m so sorry, Mom.”
When they arrived, Thomas walked the dogs while Nikki unloaded our presents. It took everything I had not to rush out and hug her. Sabria helped me load Nikki’s & Thomas’ gifts into their car, as they stood at a safe distance, keeping their dogs on leashes. Zisou and Dexter whimpered, not understanding why they couldn’t go into the house where the nice lady, who always showered them with treats and dog toys, lived. I felt so sorry for them. I felt so sorry for Nikki and Thomas and for Sabria, who was with me in order to be there when they all arrived. I watched from the porch as they drove away and disappeared beyond the tree line on Woodbury Loop.
Nikki made that decision because we raised Nikki to make that decision when we taught her to always think of the consequences of her actions, not just on herself, but also on those around her. We raised Nikki to drive away from us. We raised Nikki to break our hearts.