August 9, 1982, I took a leap of faith and made the move to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had recently gone through a separation and was starting my life as a single parent to my two sons. I was afraid. I was determined. And I was anxious for a new beginning, in a new city. I had made a pit stop in Rockford, my hometown prior to this move because I thought being with my family would help with the transition. But I soon realized I needed my independence, while staying reasonably close by, and I knew soon enough, it is hard to go home again. So I wanted to be somewhere close to them but in a large urban environment. Chicago was too much for me to consider. So Milwaukee it was.
Within 3 months of arriving and beginning my new job, outside the classroom, in insurance, I found out my 3 year old son had cancer; a Stage 4 Wilms’ Tumor, which is cancer of the kidney. It turns out I had the best doctors and Children’s Hospital, second to none and long story short, after a horrendous bout of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, he is now 35 years cancer free.
Throughout all of this, my family was, and still is, my rock. My ex-husband moved here to be close to my sons and I found the support of many other family members here and with friends. So those are my Milwaukee roots. And over the years I have had many joys and many tears. Many changes and many constants. I found a church family who I loved and served with for 30 years. You could say I anchored myself.
But as with all things, change happens. Change can be bad and it can be good. Sometimes we go with the flow quite easily and other times we have to be dragged or nudged along. I don’t know where exactly I fall in the mix. I love change, but at the same time I fear it sometimes, and I immobilize myself in the process of going through it. Some of you who know me, know I have been trying to move to Atlanta since the late 1980’s. I even got my Georgia teaching license at one point, had a job interview with the Dekalb County School system which resulted in a job offer. But I was not ready to spread my wings so far from family. I was not ready to take such a giant leap, so I remained in Milwaukee and raised my sons to adulthood and sent them off to anchor themselves in the world, knowing I would miss them tremendously, but that is what we are to do as parents; give them roots and give them wings.
So here I am now, finally ready for the move, for me. This time Atlanta is not so daunting because I will coming home in a sense to join my son and daughter-in-law and newly born granddaughter. I am joyful beyond words. My youngest son has even indicated he might consider, in the not too distant future, joining us.
Even though my anticipation of starting anew is exciting, I am finding it tremendously hard to say goodbye to 35+ years of friendships and being in close proximity with my family. I am finding it hard to leave the home that I bought and made mine with personal touches and additions for the past 15 years. I am finding myself at a loss in describing how hard it is in letting go of the people I have interacted with regularly for so many years.
So, how do you say goodbye? Honestly…..I don’t know. After many laughs and many tears, I would rather just say, “So long! I will see you soon”!