Paco arrived on time to pick up my son to take him to the airport, and I managed to tell Stephen goodbye without showing the tears that suddenly welled up inside me. We had had a perfect 5 days together, and I hadn't expected to feel so sad when it ended. After all, I will be going back to Rockville in 3months to see him and his family and Doug and his. And then I'll be back again in November for Thanksgiving and in January two months later for Doug's daughter Dalya's Bat Mitzvah. It's not like we haven't had plenty of goodbyes over the years---when he left for college at Stanford and Oxford for his junior year abroad, and then to Georgetown for law school, ending with a permanent move to DC with Kimberly when I still lived in St. Louis. Plus all the trips he's taken out of the country for work and for vacations with his family. But those times struck me very differently. They were opportunities for him to explore a wider world, just as I had imagined and hoped he would do.
But as I stood there watching the SUV disappear down our cobblestone street, I was the one who had chosen to leave. I am living far from the country where I was born and raised, far from customs and language that were mine until Jack and I made this move in our later years. Far from my children and grandchildren. Somehow the year I spent in Mexico in my 50's didn't feel the same. My kids weren't yet really settled in their own lives, and I didn't think so much about words like "forever" or "the end of my life." But now I am 75 living in a foreign world, waving goodbye to my older son who is going back to the US, to what has always been"normal" to me before. Suddenly I had the image of my grandmother standing in her apartment window watching as I got into my car, waving until I was out of sight. She stayed where she was supposed to be---at home, where I could count on seeing her. Isn't that what a woman in her 70's is supposed to do? Isn't that where I should be, for my family's sake and for mine, close enough to visit whenever they are able to spend some time? I have always valued travel, learning other cultures, but I didn't realize, now that even the grandchildren don't need my help, how much my self-image is determined still by being close to my adult sons and their children. It was my choice to move to Mexico, for many good reasons. But it was intended to be for a year's adventure, I said when we came here in July. For Jack, that year's adventure feels like extending for the rest of our lives. He does not want to go back, ever. For me the problem is the separation from my family. I Have met many women here whose children live in the States. They see them from time to time. Some go for years between visits. This is not possible for me.
I am just beginning to wrestle with the idea of how long I will actually want to live in Mexico. We will look into becoming temporary residents, rather than staying on a tourist visa, when we go back to Maryland this summer. We'll go to the Mexican Embassy to explore what makes most sense for our legal documents. There is talk here that the Mexican government is cracking down on the length of stay that foreigners are permitted. Currently our visas allow us to be here for180 days, but that is apparently at the whim of the agent who happens to be on duty when you arrive. He can write down any number he chooses for your length of stay. Yesterday I heard someone's only allowed a few days' stay. But each step that we take feels more and more permanent. It need not be, but it feels like a commitment.
Stephen loves adventure. He has taken his children on dog-sledding trips, canyoneering, climbing and photographing game in Africa, ice-biking and reindeer sledding in Norway. He and Kimberly biked for days through Southeast Asia to celebrate their 25th anniversary. He has worked in Europe and Africa. Life in San Miguel de Allende is tame in comparison. I asked if the city felt Western to him. "No," he said, approvingly. "It's international." He loved it all---our house, our city, our way of life. "I can see why you're here." I have his blessing. This is where I am. For however long, I don't yet know. We will take it year by year.