Sometimes, in the midst of all my struggles with chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and celiac disease, I forget that underneath it all I am really just me. I was reminded of this, and of what is most important in my life, last week when our youngest daughter Becca and her husband and one-year-old son came to visit.
The weather was cooperative for most of the week and we were able to spend copious amounts of time outside--playing at the park, walking Helena's Last Chance Gulch, splashing in the water at the lake and just sitting in our own backyard. Becca and Mike even went on an overnight getaway and left young Jack in our care. We took him to the Saturday market to watch all the people and their dogs and buy fresh corn and gluten free cookies.
Becca is our baby, the youngest of four, the last to leave home, the last to marry, the last to have children. When our oldest turned eighteen some years ago I had the (very mistaken) notion that my parenting years with him were over, that, like a NASA rocket, we would launch him out into the world and he would find his place in orbit with the rest of humanity, somehow independent of us, his parents. But I have come to learn that launching is a process, not a single event. Though each of our children has left home after high school to go away to college, and each has subsequently graduated from college, started a career, married and had children, these things have not all happened smoothly and on the timeline we would have expected.
Becca, like her siblings, had some difficult years in there. After initial launch (and even in the midst of that), there were some glitches. She left, came home again and left again a couple of times. She changed colleges, majors, friends, jobs and automobiles. Now she is very far away in Virginia, where Mike is poised to begin his last year of law school, and there is a promise of a job that awaits him upon graduating.
Watching three of my children, along with their collective five children, play at the beach last week, I realized that the launching process is, perhaps, coming to a close. Our oldest, with his family, just bought his first home. The next two are set to follow suit very soon. And Becca, my baby, the one who has perhaps traveled the most far a field in the process, seems to have landed.
I love my children immensely, passionately even. Like most parents, I spent many sleepless nights and long days caring for them and worrying about them. Much of my concern was motivated by my own ill health. I know my illness affected them. How could it not? Yet, sitting there at the lake last week, hearing them laugh together and watching them play with their own, and each other's, children, I had to think that maybe, just maybe, growing up with a slightly disabled mother wasn't too damaging after all. Maybe it even helped them become more compassionate, more interested in the welfare of others, more understanding of the differences that make us human.
Regardless of my influence, because of it or in spite of it, they have all grown up to be very good people, and now they are much more than just my children. They are my friends.