Up until two summers ago, I never really gave much thought to a "last" anything where my daughters were concerned - especially not when it came to the amount of time that I spent with them. Granted, I had given primary custody to their father but they lived a mere 20 miles up the road and we never fought about whether or not it was my day to have the girls. To say that visitation was liberal didn't even come close - if I wanted them for an extra day, no problem, and if something had come up where their Dad needed me to take them for some extra time that was generally no problem either as long as my whacked-out schedule allowed it.
All of that changed when the ex remarried in July of 2004 and relocated to Kentucky. In all honesty, I had always hoped that my ex-husband would find someone who loved him in the way I never had and I was truly happy that he'd met someone but I was also somewhat miffed that he had to find that someone over 900 miles away. Because of different child custody laws in Kentucky, she couldn't move her two children back here away from their father but there was nothing in Connecticut law that said my ex couldn't take the girls out of the State. According to the "Best Interest of the Child" law, as long as he wasn't moving them away just to tick me off then he could do it. Well, of course it ticked me off but he had viable reasons - new wife, new job, new home and there was nothing I could do to legally stop him.
In August of that year my mother and I packed the kids up and made a vacation of sorts out of the drive to Kentucky to drop them off at their new home. Except for the final destination it was a great trip - we spent several days in Pennsylvania and had a wonderful time at Hershey Park before continuing West. However, driving away and leaving the two of them in a strange place was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. On the long drive home the car was horribly quiet with no voices bickering, no feet kicking the back seat, and no one asking when we were going to stop to eat. When I got home to Norwich the house was quieter than what I imagine a tomb might be as I kept waiting to hear a voice yell "Mom, it's my turn on the computer" or "Do we have any snacks?" but heard nothing but silence.
Two years later things have changed a little as now Amanda won't be leaving in the next few days but the countdown has started for Jamie's return to Kentucky. Last night as I was trying to fall asleep the thought occurred to me that it had been her last Sunday here and that every day of this week would also be her "last" until whenever she came back out to visit again. As much as she can drive me crazy, she's my youngest and I miss her when she's gone. I worry about how she's doing in school, whether her Dad is being too strict on her in the overbearing way that he can be, how she's getting along with her stepmom and stepbrothers, and when she'll get to come out again.
I am not looking forward to Saturday morning's early trip to the airport where once again I'm going to have to put Jamie on a plane and then wait while it safely flys off into the sky taking away the child who can mess my house up in the blink of an eye while driving her sister crazy without even trying. Fortunately I'll have the drive back from Hartford to fight down the lump in my throat before I have to go to work but it's going to seem strangely quiet around here again on Saturday night despite having Amanda here. I doubt she'd admit it but I think Amanda will miss her sister, too, when she's gone and we're both going to have to get used to the emptiness that Jamie's departure will bring.
In the meantime, we're going to try to enjoy these 'last' days as best we can and I'm going to try not to dwell too much on Saturday and the heaviness in my chest that grows with each passing day.