So sad it hurts to breathe

You know how when you have a sore in your mouth and you can’t keep your tongue away from it, as if your brain needs to confirm something like, “Yup, it still hurts,” as if you are a sucker for punishment?
Well, that is what I was feeling last week. Except it’s not a sore in my mouth; it’s my heart and it is hurting.
Aimee came to visit. Daughter #1. Tucked inside her bag next to her socks and underwear, she packed her inspiring view of the world, her intention to be the best version of herself, her wonderful laugh, her delicious sense of humour, her easy-to-be-with nature, and Linden, her 20-month-old son.
For two weeks I had them in my house, where I could make her a delicious cup of coffee every morning (except the coffee only was delicious about one-third of the time; okay, maybe two days out of 14).
I could wake up at night and feel her presence across the hall, and I smiled in every cell of my body—even when Linden was fairly certain he wasn’t in the mood for sleep and wanted to be sure everyone was aware of his position on the matter.
Aimee and Linden have since gone home. They flew across this ridiculously-large country of ours back to Vancouver and I am left with this empty house.
I stand at the door to their bedroom and I stare. I wander off and before long, I am back at the door staring again.
I want to throw open the closet doors and check under the bed, as if I might find them and they haven’t really gone at all, but alas the truth is all too clear.
The cats are glad they’ve gone. I came home from the airport to find “Casey” and “Finnegan” sprawled out on the furniture looking drunk with pleasure.
Linden has a big voice—at 20 months one needs a big voice to get the required attention of those around him. He was happy to see the cats and was friendly, but his version of friendly wasn’t quite what the cats had signed on for.
“HI CAT” at the top of Linden’s voice seemed to startle the felines, and they ran for cover and stayed there until they were sure he was gone.
So now they are celebrating. They are back sitting in the sink when I’m not looking. They are back scratching the furniture and they look pleased as if they have won some kind of battle; some competition that says they prevailed over the little boy with the very big voice.
But “Gracie” is sad and quiet. She didn’t move from her bed the morning after they had left. She did her walk and relieved herself but that’s it.
She isn’t interested in life right now without Linden. They became friends despite Linden flinging her dog kibble down the stairs and around the mud room on a regular basis.
She did her best to clean up after him, but that particular morning she left the scattered kibble and ate only from her dish. I think she likes the evidence of Linden having been here.
I do, too.
I’m sad; sad in a way that I know will pass because this is what happens when children grow up and build lives of their own, but so sad in this moment that it hurts to breathe.
Aimee will know what I am feeling when Linden comes to visit and inevitably goes home. But for now, I will stand at the doorway of her bedroom and I will hold on to the single little sock that was left behind—a little sock that belongs on a little foot.
And I will be glad they came and let me fuss over them, and I will wish they didn’t have to go.