The Space Between

I have lived in Tennessee since I was seventeen years old. Eleven years ago, I packed everything I owned into a hideous behemoth of a blue van and moved here with my (then) boyfriend with tears in my eyes – tears of relief, tears of gratitude, tears of joy that I was finally getting away from my mother and her poison.

Through the years, I’ve missed my family in the vague sense that I always knew it wouldn’t be long between visits. I was so busy with work, with life, with having fun, that I never really slowed down enough to absorb and fully feel the physical distance between us.

And then came Nellie, the flurry of giggles and curls that changed my life and the lives of everyone with whom she shared a bloodline. My funny little girl with the half-smirk. My little Hobbit. My dad and stepmom came to meet her for the first time when she was around 6 weeks old. It was truly amazing to hand my father his first grandchild and see the look on his face as he held her. My brother came about two weeks later and – not to put words into his mouth or speak for him, but I’m pretty sure this is a safe assessment – it was love at first sight.

When they left, I felt an ache for them that I hadn’t ever felt before. Becoming a mother made me so aware of the passage of time, so painfully alert to the fact that with each tick of the clock we are, all of us, getting older. Suddenly the physical gap separating me from my family became a gap in my heart as well. I began watching from afar as they celebrated holidays, attended weddings, welcomed new babies into the family. I clicked through pictures on Facebook of wedding showers, Easter dinners, and read e-mails from my dad telling me all about how he and my brother went golfing the weekend before.

When Nellie and I went up to visit this past June, it was wonderful to just be in the same room with my dad and brother, to watch them enjoy Nellie and play with her. I realized that they were missing out on so much of her life, and that I was missing out on them being able to hug her, sing to her, cuddle her, and love her whenever they wanted. And that hurt. I struggle to nurture as much of a bond with them as I can via phone calls, texts, and e-mails but it’s hard. I just miss them.

This is not to say that I want to pick up and leave our life here in Tennessee behind. I love our life here. Our friends, our jobs, our home is here. My husband’s family have become my family, too, and they cherish and dote on Nellie like crazy. They have always welcomed me into their arms and I love them. If we were to take Nellie away from the love she has with Josh’s parents, it would break everyone’s heart – mine included.

It is still hard to not have the family whose blood you share near. It’s hard to watch your child grow up knowing your family but not really knowing them. There is a peace that comes with being in the company of those who have known you since birth, those who are made of the same genes as you.

I wish there was a solution. One that would make everyone happy, one where every one of us could be together. Technology helps keep us connected but when people you love are far away, the physical distance  manifests as a sense of hurt and longing that no amount of Skyping can fix. And sometimes, that just sucks.