The whirlwind trip of bringing Jessica to college had finally come to a poignant climax. With my school beginning on Monday I felt we should leave DC no later than Saturday night, even though I sincerely wanted to stay as long as possible before having to face the dreaded goodbye. When it came time for us to leave, the three of us headed down to our car for the initial phase of farewells. Jessica and I shared raw emotions of love and gratitude toward each other, while flavoring it with heartfelt tears and fond memories, so many memories over so many years together. This was quickly followed by an embrace hinting at the understanding that it would be several months before we would again share the same air...a hug that I wished could go on indefinitely, but since we all knew it was time for us to go, we shared on final group hug. In the meantime, through all of this emotional outpouring, Jim was able to remain calm, so at least one of us was capable of driving back to Wisconsin. I watched and waved as Jessica became a mere dot in the background of the CUA campus, and by that time I had quite simply melted into a puddle of seemingly endless sobs.
As we left Washington and throughout many of the seventeen hours traveling back home I continued sobbing, surprising even myself with the depth of sadness and loss that I felt. I needed to understand that there were two simple realities forming the foundation for my sense of loss and grief. First, my "little girl" and I were on the threshold of entering into a brand new phase of our relationship, a strangely different and totally unknown connection in which we would both participate as adults and secondly, from that day forward whenever Jessica would be at our home she would be a visitor. While watching my daughter as she had become that tiny dot, she had turned back to her dorm, entering it as a young adult who was independently living on her own in the great big world. I had comprehended this transition back in Madison as I had spent the previous year mentally preparing for her leaving, but living through the realism of this transition was especially more difficult for my heart to accept. This was a bitter pill of reality for me to swallow...indeed.
I was useless in the shared driving department because it seemed as though each time I would begin feeling peacefully calm, the tranquility would be abruptly interrupted by a flash of remembrance that would begin the flow of tears. There would be no advanced warning, simply heartrending sadness that had no boundaries. I don't think Jim had much fun on that trip home until we came to a truck stop in the Chicago area. You see, when we left Washington it was around eighty degrees so we were dressed for that weather. We had no clue that the Midwest was experiencing a sudden drop in temperature, down around forty degrees! Can you imagine our surprise when we exited the car to fill the tank with gas? We felt as though we were dressed for Florida and ended up in Alaska. With our lack of sleep along with all the emotions swirling around inside our car for the last fifteen hours, we both needed some comic relief, and this frigid weather provided the perfect humorous material. I thought Jim looked funny as he filled the gas tank because his whole body was shivering from standing outside in this ridiculous weather, and he was laughing at how equally silly I looked in my summer outfit... and that's how it all started.