My boys are playing a hide-and-go-tag right now. Aside from the normal hustle, whispers, running, screaming and laughing that is going on behind me, there is an added element to the teams they created…Scarlet, our dog. Scarlet is apparently on her own team. She sniffs them out, runs so fast across the wood floor that she slides and crashes into doors and when the boys come out, she tries to hump them. Nice. Who needs a dog walker??
It’s Sunday and Husband’s gone. Not for good, but for a heck of a long time. Right now he’s in Bulgaria of all places. I had to look on a map to find just where Bulgaria is, and I’m not alone. I tried calling. Crackling phone connections, still in 2011, a hotel operator that couldn’t pronounce or understand the name Hamm so it took me four tries to get through to his room and then the line went dead, twice. Finally, a very solemn, soft voice answered. He was jet-lagged and feeling very far away. He is! He needed to hear my voice, calm him down from the craziness of his day – the beautiful Bulgaria that we heard of has, for the time being, been replaced by a grey, cold, city of lawlessness and bribery. He’s there to work, but it’s one of those times when you weigh whether the upheaval, feelings of peril and distance are worth it. We spoke for as long as we could before the Melatonin tablet slowed his mind down enough to allow him to fall asleep.
Like any of my boys, I want to wrap my arms around him and tell him everything’s gonna be alright. No matter how strong we are, if we strip away those that make us feel safe and confidant, we are all vulnerable. When Husband leaves our family has to reconfigure. I literally grow girl-balls of steel. And our boys, they step up for the most part. They are all protective of me, but in equal measures with dad away they instinctively think they can get away with more. So I have to be firm right from the start, lay down the new-ish rules and stay consistent. I do let them pile into my bed to watch American Idol or Seinfeld or mindless fun telly, and we cook together and eat together much more often. They make sure I’m okay if I look a bit down and all of them ask for, and give, extra hugs.
But it’s not completely right, not for any of us. This time when he left they were all just that little bit older and I found myself explaining his trip more. “It’s a positive reason he’s going for, a happy thing. No one’s died, no one’s sick, so we need to be okay that dad needs to work over there for a bit…” And his movie’s coming out…Killing Bono (see it at a theater near you!!). It’s helpful giving them a perspective that makes sense and that answers their questions. But it’s still ever so tricky getting the new balance right.
And now, the awful, horrific tsunami. I awoke this morning with a call from my family in New York desperate to know we were all okay as we live near the beach. Other beach friends evacuated in the night with calls from abroad terrifying them into action. Husband made me Skype him, literally, to prove I wasn’t near the beach, as I had left a message earlier that I was going to go for a run on the sand. Proof, he wanted proof. We all absolutely and categorically need to know that our loved ones are accounted for and safe. The tsunami hit our shores with more fear in the end than force. But for Japan, how insane to watch people, animals, cars, trains and homes being washed away in what one survivor called ‘the spin cycle’ of the oceans pull. Japan is still under Nature’s siege rendering everything in its path useless and it makes your heart break.
California has a 94% chance of having a 7.0 or greater earthquake in the next 30 years and yet we still choose to live here. I remember being thrown from my bed on a moonless night from a powerful quake and fearing for my safety. When the ground shakes underneath you it is incredibly displacing; it goes against every normal instinct to grab a hold of something, to analyze what is happening. To add separation from a loved one…
Earthquakes and tsunamis have happened. Shock waves on every shore with these natural disasters. Not a great time for Husband to be away, especially in Bulgaria!