Finding Silver Linings

Cali 011Thanks to a friend, I’ve been thinking about discovering the silver linings in sad or disappointing events. She says every experience has the potential for a silver lining. I didn’t think that was true, but I decided to try to find the silver in one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced: the gradual realization that my kids (grown men now) would not be returning, perhaps ever, to live in their home state of Michigan. Where I live.

We were not going to have any more family holidays together. We would not be meeting for lunch. We were not going to throw a barbecue for our friends and invite the boys to bring their friends. We were not going to shop for Christmas gifts, groceries, or school books together. Tim was not going to be taking over the garage for yet another car project. That part of being a mom, being in close physical contact, was over for me.

Cali.2014.5photoMothers have to let their kids go, and I did, of course. I had no choice, and while it makes me feel sorry for myself, I am happy for them. Their happiness makes me so very happy, always.  So, besides their happiness, where is my very own personal silver lining? I just didn’t think there was one, but finally, the other day, I realized  Tim is living my California Dream. (When I was four, we lived in California for about a year. Growing up, I constantly wished that we had never left.) There’s something about being close to the ocean that has always fed my soul. I know why he chose it; it’s part of our shared DNA.

Mike is living another kind of wonderful life further up the coast. 2011vac.AcHas a wife he loves. Great job. A dog, for the first time ever, and a house. He has a baby boy of his own on the way. Of course I am overjoyed. But my first grandchild will not know me the up close and personal way my sons knew my mother. Where is the silver lining in that?

It took me a little more time to figure this one out: the fact that there is to be a grandson is a gold star, which everyone knows beats silver linings. And I will consciously create moments with this already so beloved boy still yet-to-be.

Here’s my big selfish silver lining to all of this, and it’s been happening for years. Al and I have visited California six times in the last decade. First when Mike was a grad student at USC, then when Jessica and he moved to Beverly Hills, then at their wedding in the canyons of Malibu. Twice, we’ve visited Tim and his wife in their beachside community an hour north of LA. And once, after Mike and Jessica moved, we took a road trip from LA to Seattle, visiting with the kids on either end of the journey.


We wound our way through Big Sur, a dream of mine since I first read On The Road a million years ago. We found out-of-the-way beaches and tall mountains and generally did so much traveling to places I’m not sure we’d ever have seen had our children not moved west. And we plan more silver lining places: Vancouver this summer, maybe the Canadian Rockies or Alaska or both, next.

Which makes me think suddenly that there’s another silver lining especially for me in all this. I’m finally getting serious about becoming fit enough to venture afoot to all the places I still want to see in this wide world.

Am Mom, Will Travel

me&boys.DSC_4885-300x199 I’m not sure if this is a problem outside of Detroit, and I hesitate to dare call it a problem because nobody needs more Mom guilt. Even before Detroit hit the skids, my older son moved to California for grad school, fell in love with the west coast, and never came home to Michigan except to visit.

I felt sad, but I was happy he was happy. He’s made a new life and has new friends and I have had some great vacations. Mike lived in working class Culver City for his college years, but when his wife moved out to join him (the photo is of Mike’s wedding, me and my boys) they  got a great apartment in Beverly Hills. Built during the studio system years, these houses were “mansions” in the old sense of the word. Like you could walk out to get your paper and wave at Rock Hudson. Those mansions are too small and too public for movie stars now, so they’ve converted some to apartments. Beautiful neighborhood, and I stayed at a boutique hotel, once owned by Lillian Gish, around the corner. Wow was that a fun trip. The wedding was in the hills above Malibu. Another great vacation.

For a few years, we still had our younger son home in Detroit. He’d gone into engineering, which was a guaranteed job here for as long as anyone could remember. Then he got his degree and sold tires at Sears (with no health insurance) for two or three years before he said “Mom, I’ve got to submit my resume out-of-state.” For the first time in memory, maybe the first time ever, engineers were not being hired by the autos that support this town.

Tim got a great job out-of-state and my husband and I took some more wonderful vacations to Louisiana, Texas (Dallas and Midland) and then to California, where he and his wife made their final move. For now. They bought a house in a cute beach town about an hour north of L.A. so you’d think it would be easy for us to visit both boys at once. Nope. Mike’s in Seattle now. He & Jessica bought a house, got a dog and the three of them seem quite settled.

Making the best of this life we’ve been given, Al and I  turned the west coast thing into another sweet vacation a few years ago when we flew into California, saw Tim and his wife, drove up Highway 1 through Big Sur (been on my dream destination list forever) and into Seattle. To top it off, this year we are slated to visit both boys, on separate trips, and it will be the first time we’ve seen their new homes. Also a first: we’re staying at an ocean front hotel with a balcony and a view of the Pacific. On our Seattle visit, we are around the corner again at a B&B that bills itself as a farm in the city. There are live chickens and things.

I’ve almost talked myself into being okay with a far-flung family that looks nothing like I imagined. To add to my occasional feelings of desertion, my parents live in Florida. Upside, they are five minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. Too many great vacations there to count. When I think of family, I think in snapshots. Before, when my dining room table was full of family and food every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. And now, when we travel to see our loved ones and fit in some just-us-two time as well.

I see this type of family situation as a world pattern, with grown children moving where the jobs are and forming their own social circles. It’s a good thing. But I’m oh so glad this is also the age of Skype and Facetime:)