I was whining to a friend: Alpha Daughter leaves for a year abroad in three weeks. After spending several months being excited about all the opportunities a year in another country means--for her career, for her family--I am faced with the moment of truth. She is packing her bags and I have an oh-so-heavy feeling inside, a "when will I see you again" kind of heaviness. Paterfamilias does not seem to connect with my pain, I tell my friend. He says, "you'll go visit whenever you feel like--hop a plane and you're there whenever you want to be." I say it's not the same as being able to pick up the phone and chat or, hearing there's a sudden need for your services, getting there the next day. Distance is a fearsome factor. And it also means that on any visit, I am bound to overstay my welcome or, if not my welcome, my comfort level.
My friend has been through this drama. Her daughter lived abroad for several years. I figured she would understand the feelings and fears. And she did--with this pragmatic twist:"I feel your pain about a distant daughter," she wrote in an email. "but I have to side with [Paterfamilias] on this one. Getting to Germany is not a big deal and if you go every three or four months, it will suffice. When my daughter was in Israel with the first grandchild, I went every three months and the flight was 12-13 hours. I would stay for five days, get adjusted to the time change, then board the plane again. It was awful. And sort of unnatural: no contact and then too much. But Germany is easier. Between email and visits, you should be fine. I shouldn't be so smug. I now have my grandchildren less than 30 minutes away and I see them every week."