OtterChristmas 1.9-Cold

I suspect that I had been coming down with a cold for the last several days. I can never tell. For me, illness amounts to an extended period of increasing denial, followed by an exhausted acceptance. I accepted the obvious this morning. A slight fever guides my hand.

The Otter arrived with a sinus infection which seems to have cleared up during her stay. The Muse rode her like a cowboy shadows an untrustworthy steer, ensuring she took her antibiotics on schedule, and whatever the case, she's pretty much all better now. I don't think I'm 'getting' a sinus infection, but I do feel the old internal elevator heading downward, and I'll most likely spend most of the day supine with a novel.

The Otter leaves this afternoon. She'll board a plane and be gone. The anticipatory shadow of her departure has hovered over the proceedings long enough. Today, we'll face that music. This parting, like all those before it, will not quite qualify for Shakespeare's characterization as 'sweet sorrow,' more like bittersweet acceptance. We had no expectation that this visit would not end, which helps when it comes to letting go. The place already feels half emptied out. Both The Muse and I will struggle for a few days to fill in the fresh empty spaces, but we will not have received anything like a mortal wound, more like a head cold or, perhaps, a sinus infection.

When The Otter was eight, The Muse and I faced another impending Otter departure. She'd spent the summer and was poised to return to South Dakota for the school year. The prior school year had been humiliating for her and she struggled academically, if one can even use that term with a second grader. Through the summer, we helped her start to actually read, and watched her natural intelligence start to bloom. The prospect of her returning spooked me. I remember turning to The Muse and insisting that I could not bear to send her back. Though we certainly had no standing to deny her departure, The Muse got on the horn with The Otter's dad. A week later, her dad moved in with us.

The following few months proved more challenging than anyone anticipated, but that fall, The Otter enrolled in the same grade school I'd attended, just around the corner and down the block. After what only seemed like a century or two, her dad found a job at a local firm, one he still works for today, although in a much more responsible position, and the world utterly changed for all involved. Sometimes, delaying a departure can change everything.

The Muse and I quite properly fear for The Otter's future, like, I suppose, our grandparents feared for ours in their time. We're two generations distant from fledging now, and we well remember our clumsy attempts to leave the nest. No one would ever wish such hardship on anyone, except that we all do insist upon it and later recognize if not revel in the realization that nest leaving only ever comes in one flavor: difficult. The Panglosses among us will optimistically embrace the promise these impending dramas might hold. The rest of us will experience some degree of trepidation.

I feel like an actor in a play to which nobody bothered to disclose the plot. I can't see around the next corner. We know what time The Otter's plane leaves. We'll receive text messages along the way. She'll be back to where she calls home by bedtime tonight, and The Muse and I will be empty nesters again, recovering from an experience more heart-felt than any head cold ever was. Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat will recover the guest bedroom for her all important afternoon naps. I will re-inhabit the guest bathroom. The world will regain an oddly familiar feel, one sweetened by The Otter's recent presence and made tart by her departure. Life seems as lively as quick, indeed.

©2016 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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