Love isn’t always convenient.
It’s nice when it is, when falling in love doesn’t seem to have any downside, such as taking you away from family and friends.
My parents met in Chicago. Dad worked for my Mom’s father, which is how they met. And Jeanne’s parents met in high school in Long Beach, and when Paul went off to the Pacific in World War II, Mary — with a newborn — lived with her parents.
Jeanne and I met in college, fell in love in college, and got married while in college (Cal State Fullerton), in the same county where we had lived with our parents. Dating was just a matter of jumping in my white ’65 Mustang and driving from Fullerton to Garden Grove, or for Jeanne to drive her teal Cougar the other direction. After marriage, we lived within minutes of Jeanne’s parents, and my parents were but a 90-minute drive away, in northern San Diego County.
Our son, Paul, met Sarah in 1992 while they both were in high school in Escondido. They dated for eight years before getting married in 2000, and they lived just minutes from us. Today they still live just minutes from us — in Las Vegas, and we are blessed to have been with them when their son (and our first grandson), Kieran, was born on June 29.
And then, well, there’s Cassie.
Cassie seemed destined to fall in love with someone far from home. During and after college she worked in Washington, D.C. She lived for a few months in Florence, Italy to learn Italian. She was hired by a cruise ship and crossed the Atlantic on its maiden voyage to the Caribbean. She worked at Club Med in Florida and then at its resort at Turks and Caicos Island in the Caribbean.
So we rather assumed she would fall in love one day with a young man who didn’t live down the street from us.
The phone rang one evening. Cassie, calling from the Caribbean, was nearly breathless. “Mom. Dad. I’ve met the man who will be the father of my children.”
“When did you meet him?”
“What’s his name?”
“Where’s he from?”
Belgium. As in the other-side-of-the-Atlantic Belgium.
“I love him,” she said
Ten days later we were on an airplane to the Caribbean — for a hastily arranged 10-day vacation at Club Med — to check this guy out.
He was handsome. He had a thick accent. He clutched our daughter like some prize. Cassie beamed. We thought he was arrogant. Damn Belgians, an arrogant bunch if ever there was one.
He grew on us a bit.
When Cassie returned home to Las Vegas — check that, she really didn’t have a home, just some well-traveled oversize duffel bags, a handful of framed photos and a laptop — he came, too.
He proved charming. And he could cook. They clutched each other. They fought, too — each is very stubborn and they don’t fight well. But they worked through the arguments.
Kurt, who had managed the scuba diving department at the resort where he worked, was checking out okay.
Then he shared his plans: He was going to return home to Belgium. Cassie followed him there for a few weeks to check it out. She returned to Las Vegas but decided she could not live without him.
We helped her pack her duffels. We squeezed 70 pounds into each of three of them, knowing we’d have to pay overage fees. But she was moving to Belgium — for how long was unclear — and 210 pounds of stuff didn’t seem exorbitant.
That was about three years ago, and my, the tears we have shed.
We miss each other terribly. Skype is good, e-mail is OK, but we miss the intimacy we once had, the long, rambling talks late into the evening, the giggling, the philosophical discourses, and the sheer enjoyment of each other’s presence.
Cassie would come home at least once a year, and we would visit Cassie at least once a year (Jeanne, more often). We even shared last summer’s vacation together — the four of us, in a small RV, careening across Europe in 18 days. (That’s the experience that launched this blog a year ago. The post from Viennta tells of when Kurt proposed to Cassie, an event I photographed from inside the RV.)
But this trans-Atlantic relationship between child and parents sucks. Cassie and Kurt will fight, and we’re not there to hug and hold her. Jeanne has a bad day, and Cassie’s not here to hug and hold her. They are best friends, painfully apart.
There is no answer to this sadness. Jeanne and I rationalize that we are just being selfish, that Cassie is deeply in love with her Kurt, and that’s what really matters, her happiness. We’ve told her that, and that we will always support her in her life’s decisions. But when we said that the first time, we didn’t anticipate that we, and our son and his wife, and Jeanne’s mother, would all be living within miles of one another and that our little girl would be living with a man in Europe. A man who we’ve come to love, too.
Someday they may move to America. If you would like to offer a job to a man who is an expert in commercial diving and knows all about business marketing and logos and how to design dry suits, we’d love to pass it on. We would love for them to live down the street — or, at least, on the same continent.
But in the meantime, Cassie has her Belgian residency card and is learning Dutch. And we are resigned that, except for vacations like this or when she comes home to visit, we will have to love her, and the man who has become the father of her child, from afar.