Some emotions are too complex and deeply felt to be written. The layering of feeling over feeling blots out expression and I implode with the encounter, the recognition of what love is doing. It converts my heart, obliterating my carefully constructed logic. It bends my rigid stance. It swallows my vanity, pride and ambition. Love takes down the armor.
I have a brother who lives near our small hometown in Michigan. He was the valedictorian of his high school class, and went on to higher education with an undergrad degree in Electrical Engineering and an MBA in finance. He’s lived the exciting and stressful trajectory of career oriented bachelorhood, only to reach near mid life feeling empty handed and searching for the elusive ideal family. Yet his serious and often disappointed outlook changes in the presence of his niece and nephew; my daughter and son. With them he lights up; something in his heart turns toward the sun. It is bittersweet to witness their bond.
It’s a tender image because we live so far away that we only see each other twice a year. When we have to say goodbye, it hurts.
I’m still reeling from the last goodbye, when my son Elliot hugged and hugged my brother, trying to drag him into our vehicle. I watched my brother’s face melt like a candle at having to pull those ten year old arms away from his middle. Then just as Elliot was tucked into the back seat, he reached out his hand to play one last game, calling out the words as he shaped his fists into “rock, paper, scissors….HEART” (What made him think of this? He said it just came to him at the last minute.)
As we backed out of the driveway, there stood my brother with a small smile, making a heart shape with his hands.
I knew it was for Elliot, and I failed to return the symbol.
Why did I not also make a heart shape in response? Could he see Elliot returning the sign from the back seat?
I’m left with that image, still floating in my memory while I resist acclimation on my return home. I’m afraid of losing that feeling of love and loss in the resuming busy-ness of social encounters and home management. I just want to lay on the couch and mourn.
That there isn’t a way to reverse all the years we’ve lived apart because of my past choices to be free of repression. I’ve used physical distance and mountain ranges to block my accessiblity. Angry and resentful, I needed SPACE to develop my individual pursuit of freedom. For the last twenty years I’ve been fighting to be free of overbearing influence and judgement.
It is hard to come home to my beloved exile. For the first time I experienced an opening. The possiblity that I could once again live close to the people who are more dear and precious than I realized.
Then there is my daughter. A twenty year old with more love in her heart than rebellion but grounded in her own purpose that doesn’t include living in the south with me.
Some say that when we travel, it takes time for our souls to catch up. This week my heart is still in Michigan, a place that I’ve avoided and yet longed for. Why did gaining my identity have to come with so much loss? And will I now be more open to ways that I may draw closer, with less resistance, to the ones I left behind?
Here I stand, my hands in the shape of a heart, an image that my brother cannot see because I’m returning it too late.