Quietly Bittersweet

They walked together quietly. Their breathing, the gravel crunching under their soles and the wind rustling through the grass in the field nearby provided the only sounds. The scene above was that of a sky colored in what looked to be the Crayola crayon entitled “Robin’s Egg Blue.” A few cirrus clouds and a small grove of trees at the edge of the field dotted the landscape. Some of the leaves were just beginning to change color as the wind was just beginning to have a crisp bite of the fall to come.

She reached for his hand. He gently accepted and held hers in return. They continued to walk, each in their own world of thoughts and memories. He was thinking of their son’s Little League game where he got a triple, got a runner out at first, and couldn’t help his youthful exuberance and smiled and waved to him. She was thinking of their son’s little face looking up at her while nursing. How he would grasp and pull at her hair while she felt the tugging at her breast. She could feel that familiar tingle even now, walking down a dirt road, almost twenty years later.

They had driven their boy to school and helped him unpack some of his boxes. She wanted to make his bed, arrange towels, put up pictures. Her husband had to gently pry her away from the boxes, reminding her that a boy in college could probably figure out his own system of organizing his things. She joked that that’s what she was afraid of, but her son looked at her and saw the joke was a shallow one. He asked her for some help in hanging posters and putting up pictures. He let her make his bed. He said he would put the other stuff away after they left. They all did much better at lunch, laughing and relaxing over food, an almost comfortable routine of a family meal, with just a hint of the spectre of separation looming.

As they had driven home alone, just the two of them, they had filled their time with talking, music, anything to try to shake the feeling they had left a piece of them behind. Once they had gotten home, it was far too quiet, with their daughter visiting friends and their son now away at school. So they decided to take a walk.

They had walked together a lot when they had first been married. Somehow over the years, simple quiet walks had gone by the wayside. Their time had been full. Full of noise, toys, laundry, sports, schools, driving, errands, lessons, work. They had been warned they would feel empty when their children left. Somehow this was not the case. They knew they’d miss the day-to-day view of their son’s face and voice and presence, but they were so proud of what he had accomplished so far, they could not but help being happy he was exactly where he wanted to be. Not many people could say that. He had overcome many obstacles and worried to get to college and there he was!

The last view of him as they drove away reminded her of how she felt when she waved to him on his first day on the bus going to kindergarten. They would face another farewell next year with their daughter and that would be its own bittersweet milestone. But for now she would walk with her husband, holding hands, navigating the rough road together.

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