Friday, September 27, 2013

A happy sad day

Elizabeth is gone. She left about two to spend the night with her family and will fly out to Pennsylvania quite early tomorrow morning. I laughed when she said she was having trouble packing--she usually takes a carry-on suitcase and some kind of purple bag into which she stuffs her purse. But this time, there was too much in the purple bag for her purse to fit. She will have to check one bag. Who flies across the country to a new home with only carry-on luggage?
When Jacob came home from school I told him she was gone, but he wanted to check for himself. He reported that the apartment is very empty, and tonight the blinds are drawn and it is dark out there. Jacob said, "It's a sad happy day. We had to many happy times with Elizabeth but now we're sad, except we're happy because she's happy."
We've had a week of farewells as various people took her to lunch or dinner or came by to raise a toast and say goodbye  My farewell with her was a bit teary and filled with hugs. Elizabeth has always been part of my extended family but this year she became much more tightly woven into the fabric of our daily lives--particularly with Jacob and his mom and dad, my neighbors Jay and Susan. At my birthday dinner in July she had her first chance in years to connect with my other kids. As we hugged today, she repeated what she's said before that this has been the best year of her life and she doesn't think it would have been if she landed anywhere else. If I was able to do that for her, I'm humbly grateful. But it has been a two-way street--besides companionship and a sense of not being alone on the property, she has helped me in countless little ways: doing the climbing and reaching chores my kids now forbid me to do, taking extra-heavy garbage carts to the street, even picking up and disposing of a dead rat. Today she got the crockpot down so I can use it Sunday, carried in a bulky comforter from the car (it had been to the cleaners) and solved a Facebook problem for me.
She goes to an exciting new life, filled with enthusiasm for what lies ahead of her; I have the weird feeling something new will come into my life to fill the void she's left, though I have no idea what. We're both moving forward but we forged a bond this year that is stronger and tighter than the one that has held us together since that day, now twenty-one years ago, when she walked into my office as a new work-study student and said, "Hi, I'm Elizabeth Knudson." I learned later that most of the world calls her Beth, but to me she will always be Elizabeth.
May the road rise to meet you, my friend.

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