Except, apparently, for that night, when I fell at the sink, cutting my chin, bruising my knee, but most unfortunate of all, breaking three bones in my right foot. By the next morning I was ensconced in an emergency room cubicle with a temporary cast. One day later an orthopedist told me I was lucky, I would not need surgery, but I would need to wear a cast for two weeks, followed by a heavy boot with no weight bearing allowed for another 6-8 weeks.
My daughter’s wedding was two weeks away.
Rebecca is 24, and she has always been the independent sort who loves to try new things and go on adventures and smile while doing so. (Unlike her mother, who only likes what she knows she likes, does not like sleeping in strange beds, and until recently, didn’t even like to fly.) As it would happen, Rebecca chose to marry a British man. They met on her study abroad in England during her junior year of college, and they decided to live there.
I’d been painfully aware of this plan for about a year and a half. During a regular dinner out with my husband and me, Rebecca announced it. She would be getting engaged. She would be getting married as soon as she completed her master’s degree. She would be moving to England permanently.
It had roiled my brain and my heart as we did all the good things mothers and daughters do during engagements. It sat there, festering, as we chose her dress. It wouldn’t stop gnawing at me when we were talking about the food and the cake. When Rebecca showed me the color scheme and the flowers she had chosen, my mind screamed, “But you’re moving to England!”
The last couple of months, before I broke my foot, I really wanted the whole wedding and moving thing over with. Just get her married and out and done. The painstaking weeks and days leading up to the wedding were filled with a leaden undertone I can only describe as the deepest sadness.
People tried to show me all the bright sides — as if there were any. “England is a great place to visit!” they said. (Well, not if you can’t do it more than once a year.) “You’re so lucky you live in the age of FaceTime,” they said. (As though that could substitute for one of Rebecca’s generous hugs). For the past two years, as she had completed graduate school nearby, I had been able to take her for lunch and dinner and for our favorite treat, frozen yogurt, frequently. It’s altogether possible these things will never happen again unless it is during a regularly scheduled trip once or twice a year.
It didn’t feel like there were any bright sides, except, of course, that Rebecca was going to be happy. And that is a big bright side.
I put on the best face I possibly could. I tried to focus on the wedding, which would reflect the beauty of the relationship between Rebecca and her future husband, Andy. I tried not to talk to her about this overwhelming sadness that found the beginning of my favorite month — June — not dazzling with sunshine but opaque with gray. And then I broke my foot.
For two weeks, Rebecca was home — done with graduate school, shifting away from work, getting ready for the wedding. And in that time, suddenly she was taking care of me. (She didn’t have to, but she likes taking care of people, so I think it wasn’t that bad for her. At least I hope not.) She brought me to the doctor. She took me to lunch, pushing my heavy wheelchair up faulty ramps, and did my grocery shopping. She did the laundry and fixed my breakfast and took me to the library for books to pass the time.
The broken foot was, I could see in those two weeks, kind of a blessing. We had a richer time than we would have otherwise, even though we were busy preparing for the wedding and her move and dealing with my physical pain. We got to talk a lot more, about everything — the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.
And then it was over. I got dressed one Sunday afternoon in the pretty dress I’d picked out four months earlier during the cold and darkness of February, and added a super high heel on my left foot. I am not accustomed to wearing high heels, never mind only on one foot, the other tightly encased in a boot. There was a wheelchair for the ceremony, crutches for later. I tried not to cry from the moment I woke up. I tried to concentrate on my daughter’s happiness. Her joy. And that was evident the whole day.
She left for England a week later. Now, as the sun is setting earlier, she already has a job in her field and a first apartment that she and her husband will soon move into. We FaceTime once a week and text daily. She sends me pictures of her dinner preparations many nights. I send her pictures of my baking.
My foot is out of the boot. I’m in physical therapy. I can walk up and down the stairs instead of bumping up and down them on my rear. Recently, for the first time in months, I walked three miles, something I used to enjoy most days in the summer. I sent Rebecca a picture of what I was putting together to bake so she could guess what it was. She guessed right.
I ache for her all the time, especially in the morning when I wake up and calculate the time in England, five hours ahead of us, wondering what she is doing. But the ache has turned into something more manageable. Instead of that tremulous pain that I experienced leading up to the wedding, I feel a sadness for missing her, but not for worrying that I won’t know her anymore. It is getting better, this seesaw feeling that is slowly turning into something less than grieving and more like something I can live with and channel into something positive.
The physical therapist says I only need one more week of therapy. My foot has healed. In time, my heart will heal completely, also.