Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 9, 2014

Sweet compensation

Last Monday, we were stirring early. Adopted German daughter Nadja was flying home. The 7 a.m. flight meant husband Art, Nadja's boyfriend Tim and I were scurrying about at what I normally describe as "an ungodly hour."

Nadja had accompanied Tim when he came in February to complete an internship here. They had previously spent a week in Chicago to experience one of America's bigger cities. Rather than fly on to Manhattan, Art decided to pick them up in the Windy City as it gave him an excuse to visit his high school classmate Jo Ann, who lives in southwestern Wisconsin.

Nadja hadn't intended on staying as long as she did, but with my mother needing daily trips to the clinic for radiation treatments, we prevailed on Nadja to stay a while longer to help. The timing fit well as she had just completed her master's degree in public health and so we weren't taking her away from either schooling or work.

Nadja originally came to us for a school year as a high school exchange student in 2005. This trip, nine years later, she came as an accomplished young woman - an example of how life is always changing.

"Adopted" son Tim has another internship when he returns to Germany. Then he, too, will be seeking employment in earnest. With their brains and personalities, I doubt they will have many problems locating jobs. Nadja applied for two positions while she was here and both resulted in interview invitations before she left.

There are other changes afoot as well. Older daughter Mariya has been invited to apply for a new position with the university. Younger daughter Katie is about to jump into her last year as an undergraduate.

Such changes are hardly anything new. Last August, Art and I spent a wonderful few days in upstate New York. We were there for the wedding of my cousin's daughter. But on the flight back, Art asked if I had thought about the fact that we may never again see some of those people we had so enjoyed spending time with.

When a person is young, such thoughts are rare. Perhaps the first time for many of us is when we graduate from high school. When I left for college, I knew that some of the people I had seen daily for so many years I would now only see occasionally. And for others, well, our paths might never cross again. It was such an unfamiliar thought that it was hard to comprehend.

But as the years pass, these feelings have become a frequent companion. It probably happened first when my Grandma Mostrom died. She was my first grandparent to leave us. It seemed odd to think that I would never see her or hear her voice again. Yet now, every week or two, I open the newspaper and read about the passing of someone I spent some time with, but whom I will never talk with again.

An old saying is that practice makes perfect, and by this point in our lives, Art and I have had a fair number of occasions to say "goodbyes" of both the temporary and permanent type. As Art's Mom progressed in her 90s, she often commented that whenever she said "goodbye" to someone, she wondered if it would be her last. I'm not quite to that point yet, but I often now wonder what will change after a parting.

In Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet said, "Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say good night 'til it be morrow." While his lovers were just teenagers, those words express what I have seen in the eyes of older family members as we were readying to depart. There was a fear that the special time we had just spent together would not be repeated.

And sometimes that was so.

I am inclined to suppose these thoughts are more appropriate for the fall - a time of year that frequently strikes us with a touch of melancholy. But it really fits at any time of the year. Those who keep track of such things tell us that for some reason, more people pass away in the late winter, making it a time of those permanent "goodbyes." May and June are the months when youngsters complete their schooling and many get married, leading to those uncertain partings. The days of early August are often the hottest. Still, that heat somehow summons up the knowledge that the lazy days of summer will soon be over.

Most of us have fond memories of childhood events such as Christmas or birthdays. But while we may have wanted the events to go on forever, they did not. Still, they are not lost to us entirely. Remnants of those experiences persist in our memories. We relive them a bit if we have the opportunity to participate in creating similar memories for others, such as our children or the children of friends or relatives. Yes, we lose people to death or distance, yet their time with us somehow enriches our life. We regret losing the child, yet embrace meeting the adult he or she becomes. Marriage further loosens the ties with the parents, but brings the promise of a new family.

With our adopted German kids moving into the world of work, it will almost certainly mean that the frequent visits we've had in the past, with us going to Germany or them coming to the U.S., will become more difficult to arrange. And that makes me sad. Still, having had the opportunity to watch them grow from young adults into a competent young woman and man is sweet compensation.

Tim, Mom and Nadja shortly before Nadja returned to Germany.

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