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  • jtbelangela

The Countdown ...

Mothers have their own way of counting the passage of time. It might be marked by days on the calendar, celebrating our children’s birthdays or other milestones, or perhaps by counting the tiny new lines that appear near our eyes each year. Every mother has her own system, but for this military mom, marking the passage of time is bittersweet, and at times, confronting.

As I drove along the quiet streets of our neighborhood tonight on my way to pick up my daughter, something took me by surprise. A young man was walking in the chilly February air with his ear buds in, clearly with somewhere to be. There was something about his long stride, the chestnut tone of his thick hair and the familiar sweatshirt he was wearing that reminded me of my son on one of his frequent evening runs.

In one second, the number 188 flashed through my brain … the number of days that have passed since I’ve seen my son. At once a lump formed in my throat. Can it really be that long since I’ve seen the little boy I’ve been in love with since they placed him in my arms? (And seeing him through my phone doesn’t really count.)

I remember when my kids were young and I was in the throes of exhaustion juggling my full-time job, the children’s activities, school projects, the house and a million and one other things. When my mother would sense I was fading and needed a little bit of alone time, she’d happily take the kids out to lunch or other fun outing where she could spoil her beloved grandchildren and I could kick back a bit. How I savored that alone time--it was such a rare treat. I didn’t do anything extravagant with that time, but it was just what I needed to recharge.

These days I have a whole new view of alone time. While it’s still nice to relax on the couch and enjoy a Hallmark movie or a few chapters of a good book, quiet time is also a constant reminder that my family nest now has some far-flung branches. I’m grateful that my son is happy and successful, doing what he’s always wanted to do with his life. I realize I should focus on his achievements, not the miles between us, but as any mother will tell you, that’s easier said than done.

I watched that young man walk away until he was just a dot in my rear view mirror; then I had another thought. Perhaps the number I should be focusing on is not how many days have passed without my son here, but how many remain until he’s back home on leave. If I can do that, by the time I’m done counting, he’ll be home with us once more.

So here we go …. 120, 119, 118 ....