Left behind.


For the twenty-ish years of my childhood, my dad’s job kept our family relocating every two or three years. Our family vacations and holidays were spent going “home” (where my parents had been raised and where our grandparents still lived). We were always Away, but they were always There.

For the twenty-ish years of my adulthood so far, my parents stayed in one place, and my husband’s job has kept our own family relocating every two or three years. Our family vacations and holidays have largely been spent going to our parents’ homes and welcoming them to wherever we happened to live at the time. We are always away, but they have always been there–usually thanks to frequent flier miles!

Last month, my dad retired from the last of the jobs that made up his career, and which were responsible for many years of moving trucks, and even more years of convenient airline freebies. I still can’t decide if what they did next was perfectly crazy or perfectly natural, after all those years and trucks and planes: they moved. By choice. To Paris.

(Yes, THE Paris. Paris-Paris. Ooh la la and Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower and Jerry Lewis. PARIS.)

They studied French for 18 months, sent my siblings and I some stuff they thought we would want, put their very favorite things and a few family heirlooms in storage, sold everything else, got their visas, found an apartment, and as of today they’ve been residents of the City of Lights for one week.

I know it’s ridiculous, but I have the strangest sense of being left behind.

I remember very clearly realizing that, as a kid, however hard moving was, it was doable, it was manageable, we’d thrive-not-just-survive in it because we were US: the five of us. Myself, my brother and sister, mom and dad. WE were always together, and that always made it okay. And we had a place to go back to, where grandparents and cousins and traditions were still there for us to connect with, where the drive-in burger joint where my parents dated still serves the best onion rings, where the Royals still play in the same stadium I sat in every summer watching #5 play third base.

It’s been a bit trickier being the grownup, being the mom. Being the one who (theoretically) has the maturity and wisdom and responsibility to help my own children do “the moving thing,” and manage it, and hopefully even thrive in it. Early on in our married and moving life, I struggled to feel confident in this new version of US: the four of us, myself, my husband, the two boys. I knew how to move to a new house as a kid with my parents, but it took awhile to shift that image so I could see myself AS the parent. I guess if I’m honest, deep down, Paris has made me aware that I’m still not 100% convinced I’m up for the job.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled for mom and dad. More excited than jealous, even. And I’m the “Carpe Diem” kid, the one who says “You only get one walk through this life… it might as well be down the Champs-Elysees.” But crouching just underneath my joy for them is, admittedly, sorrow for myself. Grief over the reality of my own adulthood, the responsibility of parenthood, and the truth that my kids will grow up and leave and I’ll also have to move on to a new version of my own life. Grief over the cost of airline tickets, the headache of time zones, and the glitchiness of FaceTime. And most of all, grief over the loss of “going back home,” the possibility that has been a small but mighty anchor all along my own often-unmoored way.


If you’re interested in following my parents’ retirement journey, mom is blogging at Pathway to Paris. Bon voyage!

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