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Table for Four; Make that Three

I set the dinner table for four last night.  As I returned to the table with condiments, I noticed that there were only three place settings. Hmm…out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband putting dishes into the cupboard.   When I asked him why he removed the place setting, he looked at me and said softly, “because there are only three of us for dinner.”  Bam, stopped in my tracks.  My eyes filled with tears as they have so many times over the last few days.

Last week, we moved our first born into his dorm at Penn State, University Park.  He was excited, ready to dig right in.  Me, not so much.  There is no doubt in my mind that Ben is ready for this next step. I’m sure he’ll make great friends, have new and life-expanding experiences and take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities available.  And while having this peace of mind is comforting, it doesn’t remove the sense of loss or the heartache that comes from being separated from a person you love with every fiber of your being.  I remember reading an essay by Thomas Jefferson which is a conversation between his head and his heart.  I’ve been having this internal dialogue many times a day.  Head: “Ben is safe.  He’s in a good place with good people.  He will be exposed to new ideas and ways of approaching the world, acquire skills, have great experiences.”  Heart: “WAH! I miss him.  What if he’s not eating well and sleeping enough?  What if I he doesn’t come home before Thanksgiving?  God, that’s a long time away.”  Head: “Now stop that.  You spoke with him yesterday and he’s doing great.  That’s what matters.  You will adapt.” And on and on….

The emotions surrounding loss are just so powerful.  I grew up in Frackville about seventy miles north of where I now live.  My mom and brother still live there as do my husband’s parents, his sister and her family. We visit with them regularly.  Over the past two-decades, places that served as the backdrop of my childhood have ceased to exist.  The catholic church where I was baptized and where my husband and I wed twenty-five years ago was first closed, then later demolished.  The grade school I attended was above the church, so that too is no more.  My beloved high school, Cardinal Brennan, closed years ago due to low enrollment and now sits vacant in a gorgeous valley surrounded by magnificent mountains.

Last weekend after taking Ben to PSU, we went to see our family.  Our daughter and I love to get food from Danny’s Boulevard Drive-In, which has been around since my mom was a teenager and was a hang-out for teens for decades.  My brother was kind enough to pick-up our take-out order.  When he arrived back at my mom’s house where we would eat, my brother announced that Chick, the fry cook who had been at the restaurant for forty years, had quit.  All I could think about was going with my dad and brother to Danny’s on Christmas Eve every year from the time I was about three, getting our burgers and fries made by Chick, who would always come to our table to talk with my dad.  My dad died twelve years ago. Seeing Chick at Danny’s always reminded me of him…….

Loss……. I don’t have any answers for the hurt but as I am an optimist, I’ve tried to remind myself that we feel it because we are all in, the experiences, joys, pain, sorrow, all of it is life-affirming.  Connections matter and while some end or change some, we have the infinite blessing of being able to create new connections, strengthen waning ones and always keep a piece of the ones that were, in our minds and hearts.

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