I Try Anyway

I spent this past weekend at the University of Oregon visiting my kids.

Yes, they were just home for spring break. Yes, I wrote about that pit in my stomach I get each time they leave.

A week later, I went to them. Even though they’d just been home with me.

I did this because April 7th and 8th (plus a good stretch of days afterward) is the first anniversary of a terrible time for my daughter.

I didn’t want Karly to be without me.

A year ago, her friend and both his parents died when their family’s plane crashed in a field near the Eugene airport. He was an only child, and they’d been headed to an admitted-student tour at the University of Oregon.

(The only sliver of grace I could glean from this tragedy was that they were together, no one left behind.)

The loss was awful beyond words—I still can’t wrap my brain around an entire family gone—but that isn’t my story to tell.

My story is how I felt—how I still feel—wanting to help someone when there’s nothing to be done.

I try anyway.

So on April 7th, I flew to Eugene (which was hard for Karly—but a necessary thing) so I could be with her through April 9th.

My son Jack was with us much of the time. He brings with him a bright smile. A happy laugh. A distraction.

If Karly had gone to Oregon State as she’d originally planned, Jack wouldn’t have been too far from her—just a 45-50ish minute drive away. But after she’d committed to OSU, Karly had doubts that soon turned to certainty: If she went to school out of state, away from Bill and me, she didn’t want to be separated from her brother, too.

We’d put down a deposit at OSU already. She thought it was too late. She was devastated.

So I called both universities and made the switch. It was the least I could do. What a mother does.

My heart is as happy as it can be that my babies are together now. Still, for most of the year, they’re not with me.

Spoiler alert: This post’s topic isn’t smooth—my threads are loose, emotions tangled—but I’m a writer, and writer’s write wherever we are, whenever we can.

Sometimes in green pen, by hand, in the UO student union while Karly’s in class.

Jack’s already done for the day. He’s meeting Karly and me in an hour so the three of us can enjoy one last lunch together.

Then. The airport.

I used to be a fearful flyer.

You might imagine that what happened to Karly’s friend and his family would increase my fears, but it had the opposite effect.

When I flew here Saturday I had a purpose. I’d do anything for my kids, and mother-love took over. I just wanted to get to them.

Last night we walked to downtown Eugene to see A Quiet Place. The movie’s all about parental sacrifice. No spoilers—but if you see it, picture me seated between Jack and Karly, putting myself in the position of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt.

This summer, my own babies will turn 19 and 21.

I’d still slay dragons for them.

This weekend, Karly’s dragon was sadness. To combat it, we ate junk food, slept in late, walked in the rain, binge-watched The Office.

When Jack was with us, we felt almost-whole, missing only Bill who stayed home because he had to work.

My work this past weekend was motherhood.

I hope I did it justice.

As I wait now for Jack and Karly to join me, then take me to the airport, I’m awash with gratitude for this life.

And although I hope this life continues for many more decades (to see my kids through to adulthood, watch my children’s children grow) I’ve already achieved many of my best dreams: an enduring marriage; two kind kids; published novels with more on the way.

I’ve worked hard for the past ten-ish years—since the thick fog of early parenting lifted—to be a wife, a parent, a sister, a daughter, a friend who’s worthy of these gifts.

I may never deserve them.

I try anyway.

(Part of trying is being present. Part of trying is letting go.)

So yes, I’m sad to leave my babies behind, but I’m also glad they have each other.

Glad they are compassionate humans with good, good hearts.

I’m happy for love that stretches across miles

and

infinitely lucky.

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12 thoughts on “I Try Anyway

  1. Diane

    You, my friend, are more than worthy of these gifts. You are truly a gift!

  2. Laurel Janssen Byrne

    Slay those dragons, baby! You are the best mom!

  3. Robin Goodheart

    Beautifully said, Julie! Yes, trying to be present while letting go is the challenge. You’re getting it right!

  4. Your words, as always, are so beautiful. What a wonderful writer you are. What a wonderful mother you are. And yes, you are worthy. More than worthy, my friend.

  5. Aparna Sreenivasan

    I was wondering why you went up there last weekend. You are a wonderful fierce Mama Bear who protects her cubs in the best of ways. You teach me every time I read your work – which is lovely. You always make me cry. Love you!

  6. Allison Kennedy
  7. I just really love this so much. You are a great dragon-slayer (besides being a great friend). xoxoxo

  8. I love this. You are such a good mother and I don’t care if I sound like the end or the middle of a broken record.

  9. Kim

    Julie. I don’t know how you do it, but every single thing you write gets to me. This one. For many reasons. Love you all so much.

  10. “What a Mother does.” ❤️

  11. KTP

    I’m so glad you went to your kids this weekend. Thank you so much for sharing this story. Sometimes mama bear has to do what she has to do!

  12. I adore your family.

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