The little one wakes up at the same time every morning, give or take 15 minutes. Never mind that it’s the weekend. I long to sleep in, but my internal clock has adjusted to hers, which means I’m groggy but awake when she comes padding into my room.
“I miss daddy,” she says, leaning her face into mine. I run my tongue around the inside of my dry, sleepy mouth.
“I know. Me too,” I say. “Let’s FaceTime him.”
I pick up my phone from the bedside and press “Josh in Israel.” A shrill ring starts up immediately and within seconds we see him on the screen. Thousands of miles away, he sits at a beachfront café, the sun setting over the Mediterranean, his face warm and glowing, grinning. Here at home we are just waking up. My bed-head splayed across the propped up pillows, the sleep still heavy in my eyes, my cheeks not yet rosy. The morning sun comes through the window, weak after a night’s rain, gray tinged clouds hanging in the bluing sky.
“Hi daddy!” Lilah chirps. She is thrilled to see him in real time, but unfazed at the mind-blowing technology that makes it happen. We are at that point now, he and I, middle age, when formerly familiar bits and pieces of the world make themselves known as miracles. FaceTime is one of them.
He tells us about his adventures so far, shows us his frothy café hafuch with its milk on the bottom and espresso on the top and describes his dinner and jazz club plans with a friend. I haven’t seen him this happy and relaxed for a long time. It makes me smile. Soon Lilah is clamoring for breakfast just as the sun slips below his horizon. We say our I-love-yous and goodbyes. The screen goes blank. My heart swells.
I do not know that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but it does make the heart grow. We have been together for 16 years. Our hearts are plenty fond and plenty full, but “I love you” is a statement rather than an action item. We let it hang in the air around us, glancing up at it every once in a while to make sure it’s still there. Meanwhile, it’s the repetitive tasks and the short-term goals of living – grocery shopping, signing on new clients, picking up kids from school – that fill us up, leaving little room for the practice of love. It is when we are apart like this for days and days, he outside of our perimeter while I remain circumscribed within it, that I find room for love.
In the space and time between us, I untangle the knots, the criss-crossing of signals and mixed messages that catch in the web of our busy lives. Distance gives my heart perspective. Across the oceans his voice comes through content and satisfied. Instead of work, he talks about Turkish coffee and seared meats, music and a road trip up north. Apart from me, from us, he is the man I met all those years ago, entirely of himself, the man I fell in love with.
I think about all the ways we lose ourselves when we love someone and all the ways we emerge shiny and new in the same instance. At first we were all too happy to meld ourselves together, creating us. This is what we wanted after all, to be joined with the other, to be loved, to move from one to two, then to a family of five. In the joining together, identities shifted, titles bestowed and along with them responsibilities. I wish I’d known from the beginning how important it is to honor the core self in the midst of all this love.
Josh and I will FaceTime tomorrow, wide-eyed once again with amazement at how crisp we appear to each other on the screen, how cleanly our voices carry across the thousands of miles. It is a wonder to see him step outside of us and into himself. In the space he’s left behind, I am slipping back into myself too. It is from here my heart grows, not fonder or bigger, but with the breathtaking crush and whirl of who we can be when we are first true to ourselves.
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers share their versions of a completed sentence. This week’s prompt is, “I wish I’d known…” Hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and co-hosted by Kenya.