However, it IS a strain and after awhile, a hardship, not to be able to keep friends longer than 3-4 years. I managed it with one person but even so we struggle to keep in touch and have no daily context to float our friendship in any longer.
As an adult expat no longer cocooned within the military community, it's even harder. Now I'm settled or, at least, settling, and each time someone that I've invested time and friendship moves on, it's crushing. Sometimes it's just a little crunch, but other times I can feel my heart contracting, and wonder why it hurts every time when people leave. Like they're leaving ME personally. I can almost feel that little snap as the invisible connection between us retracts and pulls back into my heart.
It's not like I don't understand or even sympathize with the reasons. People DO move. They move on. They move out. They get new jobs or get tired of it and go home. I can hardly complain about others moving considering how many times I've moved in my life and how many people I have left behind. I suppose a great deal of it has to do with being the one left behind, and the envy that goes along with it.
A good friend of mine has been having a hard time in Sweden lately and is making plans to move home with her children for 6 months. Her husband is staying here because of work but will be visiting them several times. She hasn't lived in her native country for over 17 years and is sure that this is the best time to do this, before the kids get any older, while all the pieces are in the right places. Her kids will go to an English-speaking school for nearly a year and be close to her family and have a chance to see what life is like on the other side. I think that she is incredibly lucky to have this opportunity and to seize it. Frankly, I'm envious.
She knows that she and her family have a really good life here, but she wants her children to experience a year at home with HER traditions and HER culture and HER family and friends. When she said that she had something to tell me, I knew immediately that she was leaving, and could not stop myself from thinking, no!...no, don't leave me. I've gotten so used, throughout my life, to being the one that is doing the leaving, that I don't know how to be the one that is left behind.
Any time that I or the children mention moving to the States, I can see panic in my mother-in-law's eyes. We have no plans to do so, or to move anywhere else, for that matter, but the thought is always sort of in the back of my head, a military-brat legacy that I cannot root out and am not sure I would root out even if I could. I can understand her fears; they are getting old and the language and the distance are huge issues. I can't help thinking that it's not fair that MY mom doesn't get a chance to live closer to her grandchildren, though. Or that my children have such few chances to get to know their other cousins, my sister's children. There are no easy answers or easy choices when you are married to someone from another country. The alternatives are just as difficult on the other side. Someone always has to be the expat.