So…I’ve found myself wrestling with something over the past few days since I received my orders from the Air Force to return to the United States. For the first time in 12.5 years, I will be living on U.S. soil again. What keeps rolling around in my mind is that I’ll be touching down in my home state of California the day before the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. It’s irony at its best.
My mother was not thrilled at the idea of me moving to England 12-and-a-half years ago, but she understood I had to go. I was married to my first husband at the time, and he served in the Air Force. When the Air Force tells you to go somewhere, you don’t really have much of a choice. And my mother told me at the time, “Sara, I am your past, not your future. Your future is your husband.” I know it was very difficult for her to say those words, but my mom was completely selfless in a lot of ways.
After my first husband and I separated and I decided to stay in England, mom pretty much said the next thing. Sure, she would have loved for me to move back home. What mother wouldn’t want her baby close to her? But again, she said, “I am your past, not your future. Live your life. This is the woman I raised you to be.” And again, I know it was very difficult for her to say that. I know she meant it, but I also knew she wanted me to come home. She agreed with my point of view that staying in England was a once in a lifetime deal. Never again would I have the opportunity to live there. So, I stayed. And we talked on the phone at least two or three times per week. For hours on end.
When I started applying for Marketing Director jobs, there were many places I considered applying. I knew the position at Travis Air Force Base (near my mother) wasn’t available, so I applied stateside with other branches of the military, and I applied overseas with the Air Force. When the job here in Korea was offered to me, I called my mom, and for the THIRD time, she told me, “I am your past, not your future. This is your dream job. I want you to take it. Yes, I would love to have you home, but you are a grown woman and I am so proud of the woman you’ve become. Live your life.” And for the third time, I knew saying that had to be excruciating to her. Again…the most selfless woman I’ve ever known. I know she wanted me home then as much as she did before, but I also knew (because mom often told me so) that if I gave up my goal to be a Marketing Director and career woman, I’d never hear the end of it. More than wanting me home with her, my mom wanted me to be successful and happy. Mom told me all the time, especially after she had her first stroke and got sick, that if I packed things up and moved home to be with her or take care of her, she’d never speak to me again. She flat out told me she would be disappointed in me. That it wasn’t the life she wanted for me. People assumed I was selfish in my choices to stay overseas and strive to attain my goal. Here’s the thing: I didn’t just do it for me. I also did it for her. Because she was so proud of me. Because she wanted that for me. Because I couldn’t stand to disappoint her. And because I knew above all else that I was becoming the woman she had always wanted me to be.
So here I am getting ready to move back to the U.S. I’m not moving to California, but I’m moving to a nearby state. I’m not going there with my career in mind, for the first time. I’m going because that is where my husband’s career is taking us. Above all else, I support him and his career choices and prospects. But, here I am 12 years later finally moving home to the states. So close to the first anniversary of mom’s death. I can’t help but wonder why life didn’t take another turn and I didn’t find the opportunity for my career to progress in the states. Why I couldn’t have gotten home sooner so I could have spent more time with mom before her passing. I guess if I did find a job in her area, I wouldn’t have had the same life. I would never have met my husband. I would never have met my future. And mom would tell me the same thing now as she did with my first husband, “I am your past; not your future. Your husband is your future.”
I love my mom, no matter what some people may say. Do I feel selfish sometimes for following a career path that kept me overseas for so long? Of course I do. But I also know my mother never would have forgiven me if I’d passed on those opportunities. And now that I’m headed back to the states, a part of me feels that it’s too little too late, regardless of what my mother wanted for me in life. I feel a pang in my heart much like a dagger because I wasn’t able to get home in time to be able to see mom more frequently. But…no matter what, I’m finally on my way there. And I know mom is looking at me from wherever she is and thinking, “I’m happy you’re coming home and that you have this new life ahead of you. I am your past, not your future.”
So…I guess I’ll end this with the immortal words of Ozzy Osbourne…”Mama, I’m coming home.” I just wish you were still here to see it.