Guilty for moving away 20 years ago, putting my stuff in four boxes and a couple of suitcases and leaving New Jersey for Tempe, Arizona never to return.
I never knew it would turn out like this.
That the plans to travel to other countries, that the roaming life I envisioned, that the possibility I’d go back to the northeast would never materialize.
No, at 18, I moved myself 7/8 of the way across the country, and then, well …
… and then I stayed put.
I haven’t lived farther than 2 miles from my first home – a dorm room at Arizona State University – since I got here in 1994.
There’s a reason for that.
This state, this city, has been good to me. I got a great education, made hundreds of friends and associates, travelled with the governor as a journalist, helped start and run a successful business, founded a wonderful nonprofit event, met and married my wife and had two beautiful children.
So why the guilt?
I miss my mom and dad.
* * *
There really is no solution for this.
It’s more just a thing.
We get to see Heidi’s parents a lot. Mine? Well, it takes long distance journeys.
It’s more pronounced on the Hallmark holidays, too.
I forget to mail a card (of, course), we catch up on FaceTime, pleasantries, smiles, blah, blah, blah. But the casual stop by, the easy conversation, the let-me-help-you-with-that chore you’re trying to get done?
That stuff doesn’t happen.
There’s a distance gap we do the best we can to make up for. A month in NJ for the kids each summer. Winters in Arizona for the parents, as best they can swing.
Somehow deep inside I know it’s probably more of a connection than most people have with their parents. And I can logically live with that.
But, emotionally, it’s become trickier lately.
I’ve been undergoing all kinds of major priority shifts. The things I once wanted slipping away; I’m not even trying to hold on.
When I found clarity, there was no need.
I went into Tempe Leadership in 2013 thinking I was grooming myself to take a step into politics or business leadership.
Instead, the forced time away from my kids and my wife made me realize that was exactly what I didn’t want.
It forced me to answer the question: What did I want to be when I grew up?
By the time I graduated from that program in April, I knew the answer loud and clear:
A husband. A dad. And that was it. Let the others have their power trips. I want my precious seconds spent by the sides of the people who fill me with maddening joy just from holding their hands.
Thank god I found the answer before it was too late.
* * *
I know I can ramble most days when I set to writing, so let me close the circle quickly and succinctly this go ‘round.
Why the guilt over moving?
Because I know some day my kids will move, too. (Probably back to the northeast).
And I know that they’ll start lives of their own. And have kids (I hope). And that I’ll travel as much as I can to see them and vice-versa.
And I know that I’ll be proud of them. And happy for them. Just like my mom and dad are proud of my sister and I.
But I also know what it will feel like, now, to not have them here. To have the physical distance between us. To have to work harder – even just a bit – at reestablishing the direct link because of time and distance and the busy nature of our lives.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a love letter to my mom and dad; all wrapped up in words and niceties.
Maybe because I forgot to get a gift in the mail on time.
Maybe because this has been on my mind forever: that I can never say enough how much I love you.
That you should never mistake the gap in time between phone calls or letters for indifference.
Adulthood sucks, right? Busy this and busy that.
So I wrote, because it’s what I do.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Miss you and love you.