In a handful of days I will pack up the camper. We will bring only what we need and leave the rest behind, to see her again.
I don't know how to say goodbye. I never will. She could be gone for 50 years and I still won't know the way. But if I can hold her heartbeat against mine one last time, if I can study the way the wrinkles frame her eyes and the way her little fingers knit while she sits in her favorite chair... if I can soak her in, completely, while she's still here, I promise you I will.
Our lives in Texas feel complete now. The children love their schools, Thomas loves his job, I have found my tribe. Our little brick home sits on the sweetest street and we even have a pet tortoise named Ms. Crawley. Life isn't perfect, but it is incredible and I savor the security and love we've cocooned ourselves in. It might be suburbia, but it's our slice of heaven, and when we play board games around the kitchen table at night, I sometimes cry because I am so grateful.
I fought for this. We fought for this. With everything we had in us.
But I miss her every single day. I have photos of her all over the house and I talk to them constantly. I call her on the phone but it's not the same. She smells like fabric softener and Avon's skin so soft, and I can't hug her, and breathe her in, from 1,800 miles away. I can't look into her eyes, and I can't rest my head on her shoulder.
I miss her every. single. day.
Braedon will be 16 next summer and so this one, in so many ways, feels like the last chance to really have this time with him. I'll be soaking up the seconds and thanking my lucky stars, one mile at a time.
Holding on and letting go at the same time, maddening and marvelous.
And so this summer I will drag everyone from their routines. We'll let the house sitter move in and we'll move out. We'll bump along dirt roads and sleep in shopping mall parking lots; shower every three days and most likely run out of gas in the worst places possible. We'll get bit by mosquitos when we try to set up camp and eat hard boiled eggs for lunch. We'll argue about which way to go, and we'll have sore behinds from sitting for so long, but, it will be the absolute best and there is absolutely no way we aren't making it there.
We're coming, Grandma. All four of us. One last time. I promise.
I've never seen as many fireflies in my whole life, as I did last night. A billion tiny bug bodies flashing their songs, an illuminated Morse code singing silently into the thickest night, "Here I am." I fell asleep in my wet clothes, dirty and muddy from the river, not ready to wash their poem from my skin.
This is a story of reclamation. Shame is not welcome here.
I've had this quote on my nightstand for the last two weeks. This, and an old photo of my Gram.
Monday mornings the kids go off to school and I load all of our weekend muddy river clothes into the washing machine, and shake out our sandy shoes, and then I sit in front of my computer to see the images and basically break into a million pieces. This session, with an incredible foster family, has me just undone. But also the opposite. All at the same time. I could write about it, but it would be too much, so instead I uploaded the faceless images here today, with faith that the poem echoing in my bones will reveal itself without any words needed.
May is foster care awareness month and this beautiful foster family has my heart.