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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Distance Brings You Closer...

I grew up on the east coast.  The beach, the mountains, the big cities were all located within hours of my small suburban hometown.  Until I moved to Iowa, I did not realize how infrequently I had taken advantage of the opportunities that living in New England had to offer.  I now find myself missing the beach, the mountains, and the big cities. 

I was never a "beach bum", but I love the sound of the waves, the humm of the foghorns, the taste and smell of the salt water, the thrill of finding a live hermit crab or muscle, the feel of the sand squishing between your toes.  Summers were great for hiking and rock climbing in the mountains, and winters were when I would find myself flopping down a mountain on skis while my more skillful and experienced friends watched me both panicked and entertained.  That minor concussion healed just fine!  I would not consider myself a city girl, but taking the train or driving to New York City, Boston, or Providence for a day trip to see the sights was exciting.  And yet, if I tried to count the number of times that I actually ventured into any of these escapades, it was far less frequently than it seems in my memory.  I wish my kids could go to the beach each summer and chase waves.  I miss the gorgeous autumn views of the New England landscape that a mountain hike presents to you.  I miss my family's annual bus trip to New York City.  But those opportunities have passed.  When I go home to visit, we try to touch all those things that bring back memories of my youth...the beach, train rides, New York City, and of course family.  I attribute my lack of "taking advantage" of all New England had to offer to my youth, yet I see myself falling into the same traps now.

A young couple came to work at my clinic six years ago.  Caitlin and Ryan had moved to Iowa from California to make their way into veterinary school.  I became very close to them, and hold them as two of my closest friends today.  I watched them learn and gain from some of the experiences, both good and bad, that my clinic had to offer them.  I watched them adjust to the cold winters that they did not experience back home in the California sun.  I laughed when they described how nervous they were when there was talk of tornado watches and warnings, because I still get downright anxious about those myself.   I watched them struggle with the new "computer" version of the veterinary school application.  Thank goodness I missed out on that!  I fondly recall sitting for hours at my electric typewriter filling out applications for several veterinary schools over and over, trying to avoid typos!  Oh, the memories and how they can date us!

Caitlin was working with me when "THE EMAIL" arrived in her inbox.  It was a message from the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  It was the notice of acceptance or rejection that she had been anxiously awaiting.  That day happened to be Ryan's day off.

She wanted so badly to open it, but several things kept her from doing so.  She did not want to open it without Ryan present.  They had struggled through every phase of becoming a veterinarian together, so this too was a moment to be shared between them.  She also feared that the email's message was one that she would rather not read.

She was so panicked about whether it was an acceptance or rejection that she logged into Ryan's email account.  Her intentions were not to read his email, but to see if he also received one from the vet school and to evaluate if the size of the emails were the same.  This would give her a clue as to what the email might say, and as to whether both emails relayed the same message.  If Ryan did not have an email from ISU CVM awaiting his discovery, did that mean one of them was accepted but the other was not?  If the byte size of the emails are different, implying that the messages contained within each email were different, did that mean one was accepted and the other was not? 

Caitlin discovered that there was an email waiting for Ryan. Hopefully that meant that the two messages were the same, and this young couple would be following the same path.  However, the emails were not quite the same size.   Ryan's email was 19kb and Caitlin's email was only 18kb!  Oh no!  Was the message within each email different?  Did 1 kb matter?  Is 1kb a significant enough difference to imply that the messages contained one rejection and one acceptance?  What will this young hopeful couple do if one of them was accepted and one was rejected?  As a couple, they were hoping to gain their experiences together!

I tried everything to get Caitlin to open her email.  We ran in circles from excitement like two cats being sprayed by a hose for getting too close to the canary cage. 

"Caitlin, Just read it."

"Not without Ryan."

Caitlin, just read it."

"What if they didn't accept me?"

"Caitlin, just read it."

"What if only one of us get in?"

"Caitlin, just read it."

"Okay...mmmmmmmmmmm, no, I can't"

Perhaps she would let me read it?  Well, she didn't fall for that.  If she had given me permission, I am not sure I would have been able to keep it a secret.  I was relatively certain that she was accepted.  Both of their qualifications were excellent.  So I suffered along with Caitlin until Ryan called and opened his over the phone.  They were both accepted.

Over the next four years, our relationships changed.  Caitlin, who had become one of my best friends despite the fact that she was an employee, suddenly went from being by my side daily, to being a full time veterinary student.  Ryan went from swinging by the clinic whenever he had a chance, to suddenly being bogged down with studying.  I knew and understood what they were going through, and I did miss them, but I knew from experience that they needed to get their work done and dedicate themselves to their education. 

I would meet them for the occasional lunch or dinner.  We would try to talk and catch up on each other's lives, but I would usually end up catering to my kids and making sure that they behaved in the restaurant.  Our conversations were never very deep or focused. 

Soon, Caitlin and Ryan had a baby boy.  Ethan arrived during their third year of Vet School.  I still cannot imagine the strength it requires for a parent of a young child to succeed in completing veterinary school.  I had classmates who were parents or became parents during their education.  Now that I am a parent, I hold a new level of respect for them, and for their spouse/significant other.

For four years Caitlin and Ryan lived just 20 miles away from me.  Because all of our lives are so hectic with school or work and kids, we rarely saw each other, and if we did, there was again a lack of focus.  There was no time to sit down and delve deep into our thoughts and feelings, and have those conversations that take place only among close friends.

There is no blame to place.  I know from experience that most of their time was dedicated to classes and to studying, and then to baby Ethan.  As a matter of fact, they studied so frequently at Border's Books in Ames, that in honor of their graduation, a plaque was placed at the center of the group study table in the cafe.  I don't want to know how much caffeine was consumed during those study sessions!

Caitlin and Ryan are now graduates.  They are now Dr. Caitlin and Dr. Ryan, as well as Mom and Dad to a son, and a baby that is on the way.  Both titles are ones of which they should be proud.  I am so proud of them, and yet so sad. 

They are moving to Texas to begin their new careers, their new lives.  The past four years, when I could have tried to stay close to them, I did not make the time.  I was chasing my business, and my children, and they were chasing their dreams.  I regret not making enough time for cuddling Ethan and watching Caitlin and Ryan blossom into parents.  Perhaps, deep down I knew that if I started letting go of them during Vet School, when the time came for them to move away, it would be easier to watch them move on in their lives.

Caitlin, Ryan, Ethan, and I sat together at lunch the other day, just a few days before their move out of state.  My kids were not with me, so I was free as a bird, ready and able to talk about anything.  Ethan played with an old camera, and nibbled on fruits and cheese from his tupperware cuppie...his usual snack.  Caitlin chased the camera as it slid across the table, was tossed onto the floor, or dangled dangerously by it's wriststrap from the edge of the table.  She scooped fruit and cheese from the chair in which Ethan sat, from the floor, and from across the table.  She held Ethan's cup so he could blow bubbles in his water through the straw, while he giggled because the bubbles splashed him in his face. 

Caitlin looked at me and asked, "Lisa, do you remember the time we came here for lunch when Miranda and Connor were little?  Connor was learning to use a straw and kept tipping the entire cup upside down like a sippy cup, getting his shirt all wet?  Miranda was playing with the little girl sitting in a high chair at the next table?"

I laughed, and said, "Yes, I remember."

Caitlin continued, "I remember leaving that day thinking that we didn't really have an opportunity to talk about much that day.  Now that I have Ethan, I totally get it." and she punctuated that statement with a hearty laugh.

Perhaps you have to be a Mom or Dad to understand the humor involved in that statement.  But the fact that she now understood, what she likely didn't understand then, made me feel as though I have been forgiven.  It took a huge weight off of my shoulders.

We finished our meal, and chased Ethan out to the parking lot. "Let's try to get together this weekend before we leave."  We all agreed, but the reality is that we probably won't.  I work on Saturday.  They have to pack for the move on Sunday.  I was not ready to say goodbye, so we parted as though we would see each other again.  As I drove home from that meal, I could feel the emotions erupting, emotions that I was trying hard to suppress.  

The past four years are gone and I cannot change them.  I hope Caitlin and Ryan know how proud I am of them, and how much I will miss them.

Ironically, I will probably talk to them more now that they are moving 850 miles away, than I did when they lived only 20 miles away.  At least I hope I will...


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1 comment:

Joy said...

Lisa, you need to write a book! You are a gifted writer!!! I'm impressed by your literary talent! I loved reading this blog.