I'm sitting in a Dallas airport waiting to travel home alone. I came here this weekend with my beautiful 21-year-old daughter, Nina. She's staying, I'm going.
It's not the first time Nina has moved away from home. She's attended college for three years in Albuquerque, close to two hours from home. And to be totally honest, the first time she left for college, I was ready. She was 18. We spent a lot of time at each other's throats. It was time for a break. Plus.... and this is hard to admit ..... that was when I was still drinking and her presence kind of rained on my "party parade".
For the three years Nina was in college in Albuquerque, we saw each other on most long weekends and any time I went to Albuquerque.
During the last three years, Nina has grown and matured so much. And I've quit drinking and have become more like the person I want to be. Nina and I now fit together like a pair of gloves and normally enjoy each other. The angst that we both experienced during her adolescence is gone and a nice mother-daughter camaraderie has taken it's place. Nina has been home since her spring semester ended during the second week of last May. We've spent the summer together traveling and hanging out together. She's a great companion and roommate and brings joy to my life every day.
But kids need to grow. They need to fly the coop. I know that. But I still feel so sad leaving her in Dallas.
Nina has an amazing opportunity before her. She is going to do a year of service work for Habitat for Humanity. She has a natural talent for building and creating and she is going to learn to support her talent with the actual skills needed to build a home! They've even told her that she will learn to drive a forklift!
I have a gratitude list and it is full.
I'm grateful for Nina's and my healed relationship. Things were bad after her dad left and, to be honest, I doubted that she and I would ever be able to find our way to each other. We've always loved each other but I think we found each other very convenient to take our anger and frustration out on.
I'm grateful for this fun summer when neither of us had the need to escape from being with the other.
I'm grateful that Nina is JUST IN DALLAS. She's in my home state! She's in my town! She's not in Africa or Europe or even New Jersey. It's just Dallas.
I'm grateful that until she is ready for the next step, Nina is living with my oldest and dearest friend, Shawnna. Shawnna and Melvin are "family". They will value Nina and treat her with love and respect.
I'm grateful that my cousin Rosie is less than three hours away. And cousins Kathryn and JTom, and Samantha - they're all close and will reach out to my baby girl if needed.
I'm grateful that Nina is literally surrounded by people - relatives and friends - some she doesn't even know - who love me. And therefore, love her.
I'm grateful that we both have iPhones and can FaceTime any time we want.
So why am I so sad? Why am I sitting here in the airport with tears rolling down my face?
Because it hurts to let go. Even when you know that the future is going to be filled with treasures and joy.
My house is going to feel so empty. I'm going to miss Nina's smile and hugs. I'm going to miss the silly thing that she intentionally does to drive me crazy - kitty, kitty, kitty and er's on every word. I'm going to miss ALL the things that Nina does for me - feeding the dogs, mowing the yard, being her amazingly helpful self (she truly is so helpful that some of my friends are jealous and say they wish they had a Nina).
But I'm going to spend this year continuing to work towards being the best me I can be. That's also the "me" Nina wants me to be. Sober, healthy, balanced.
That's what I can do for my daughter.