Departures

Earlier today, I put my husband on a plane bound for Portland, Oregon. This is the first leg of our year-long westward journey, the most protracted move this side of a wagon train.

I can’t believe I actually let him go.

He’s starting a new job on Monday–MONDAY! it’s crazy. Everything’s upside down. On Monday he may also move into the apartment he spent the last four weeks searching out. With any luck, that apartment will also be the place I move into when I go out to live with him next fall. Within three days, our new temporary reality begins in earnest. He’s on the west coast, I’m in the Midwest, and we’ll manage the distance and the longing as best we can for the next year. A year. Twelve months. Maybe more, maybe less.

I talked him into doing this. When he told me there was a job opening in Portland, I squealed with excitement and told him to throw his hat in the ring, thinking that there wasn’t much chance of it coming through, especially because I already loved Portland and wanted an excuse to live there. And here we are.

Twelve months is not a long time. Ask anyone with a toddler. Ask anyone with a senior in high school. Ask anyone with a looming publication deadline. It’s *not* a lot of time, and facing it from this end, I’m afraid it won’t be enough time to wrap up the things I need to get done. I have to figure out what to do with the stuff we have in storage, how to get the fragile antique piano moved to Oregon, how to manage the fragile college student in Iowa, whether to address or resolve outstanding interpersonal differences with extended family, how to support the high school senior in his search for a university, plus finding a job for myself and figuring which stuff to throw out and which to move and how and when to pack. The list is dizzying and I am certainly not yet prepared to handle it. Twelve months seems like a very tight timeline.

But on the other hand, my husband’s going to be absent for stretches of time lasting months instead of weeks. That part makes me ache, even now. We’ve been together all summer long, which was truly a gift, given the difficulties we faced back in May. He was here through our daughter’s high school graduation, my brief flirtation with the edge of the abyss on graduation weekend, the first university selection and the second, moving her into the university, and several mini road-trips around the Midwest. We had a *very* full summer, punctuated nightly with contemplative moments on the deck. Our trip to Canada was 7/8 idyllic. I haven’t had so content a summer since I was 17.

When I think about the next year without him next to me, a year seems incredibly long. Interminably.  Sluggish and unending.

We’ll get used to this new reality. Somewhere along the line, we’ll start feeling like this is normal, as if it’s always been this way, as if we each have always functioned as individuals instead of partners. Maybe that’s even worse, getting used to being alone. I don’t know.

Right now, all I can think is “he’s gone.” I gotta learn how to face it.

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