I don’t believe the next adventure will be anything like the last one, aside from it being an adventure. As I prepare to leave again, I’m wondering how on earth I did it last time? Life was more complicated then. I had kids living at home then. Their stuff was all over the house. I was in charge of a major fundraising event and working full time. How did I do it?
When I was cleaning out the shed a few weeks ago I got a bit of insight. I found stuff in there I threw in at the last minute when I was going away last time. I’d taken everything I didn’t know what to do with and threw it in the shed. I looked at it and thought, if I really haven’t needed this stuff over the last eight years, do I need it now? I forgot I even had it! Out it goes and it feels good. I want to live a simpler life less dominated by clutter and stuff.
So this will be my last blog post from my summer desk with the view of my garden. I look up and see the Peonies are finished, the last of their heavy heads laying on the ground after the pouring rain of yesterday morning. The Salvia are still strong with their purple spikes punctuating the chartreuse Lady’s Mantle. I had not planned to do any gardening this year. I was leaving and didn’t have the time. I thought the house may lay fallow for the year and I could deal with it when I got back next summer, but an angel appeared, just when I needed her, and this place will be filled with the loving respect it deserves. It looks as if the Clematis will sing it’s seasonal song as a farewell ballad, and the Hollyhocks will chime in behind with a welcoming aria. I’ve warned the Nettles and the Jerusalem Artichokes to behave lest they be dealt with harshly next year.
The weeks are filled with good-bye dinners and farewell hikes. This assignment is not a dangerous one and there’s less anxiety about me leaving. My mother is looking down from above this time, not staring me in the face with her eyes filled with fear for my safety. It makes it easier. When I left last time, her subtle remarks made clear her feelings (“What if I die while you’re gone? Why do you have to do these things?”) and I tried to reconcile my need to go with my need to care for her. Always considerate, she lived until I returned and took pride in the weekly letters that she and her friends read with anticipation. My mother was so tied in to the stories of Shamwana. I tried to explain to Beatrice and Geraldine how my mother was waiting for me to return. So many Congolese have lost family in horrific ways that there was no basis for understanding missing someone who is still alive and has food to eat. They’ve been misplaced, hunted, tortured, and starved.”But you will see her again, right? She is still alive?”, they asked. “Yes”, I said, “I will see her again.” She was sitting in her favorite chair, reading my stories of those who will never know such comfort.
I am excited. I can finally relax about the house, knowing it will be occupied and cared for. I am excited about meeting the others who will share this adventure. We’ll have ten days in Washington together, then the seventy-two of us will venture off to five different countries and share what we have to offer. We’ll learn from our hosts and share those lessons when we return.
This week I will pack away the last of my personal items, and make lists of the quirks of this house for those who will stay here. I’ll fill my bags with essentials for the year. I look forward to telling weekly stories. I look forward to meeting new people. I look forward to seeing future midwives blossom in their profession.
As the summer unfolds here I realize there are things I will miss, but a year is such a blip on the screen. My sweet grandchildren are the most difficult to leave, but we will work at staying connected. It’s so much easier now than when we went to Malawi the first time. Letters took three weeks to arrive back then. If there was an urgent message, we sent a telegram and paid by the word. I think we did that twice. Once when a friend died, and once when our baby was born. This year we’ll probably Face Time on a regular basis.
Now it is evening and I’m still pecking away at this. I had high hopes of getting it finished before the little ones awoke this morning, knowing the day would be full and I would have a hard time breaking away. We went to church, then the beach, then a beautiful concert on the ocean. I watched as those with seats around us sported worried glances as we sat with a three year old and a four month old. But the pianist and baritone serenaded us and the whispered comments between pieces impressed the mostly white-haired audience, and they found there was hope for the future.
There is a sweetness in taking off for a year. The everyday parts of life are highlighted and seem more meaningful. I highly recommend it.