Long Distance Love

David, Anthony, & Vic 1978

David, Anthony, & Vic 1978

“Why?” I moaned. “You’ve been gone over a month. The kids and I miss you. I’m lonely.”

“E, I’m sorry,” Vic said from somewhere in Israel where he was doing research. “I’ll only be away a few days longer than we planned.”

“OK,” I said with a pout in my voice.

“I’ll get to see Paul Brunton in Switzerland. I can layover in Zurich, take a train to Cannes, and help him out for a few days.”

Cannes? The Riviera? I didn’t feel generous on this bitter January day, but Paul Brunton, or PB as we called him, was my teacher’s teacher. PB was elderly and in poor health and had gone to the Riviera to escape cold weather. I didn’t want Vic to miss this chance to be with PB, but we hadn’t spent this much time apart since we first met in 1966.

Paul Brunton in Cannes 1978

Paul Brunton in Cannes 1978

“PB wears overcoats or stays in bed under blankets. He needs help buying food and starting the furnace.” Vic was selling the idea, but I was already sold. “Besides,” Vic said, “I’m deeply honored to be asked.” This was the main issue. PB was a philosopher, writer, and mystic. We’d studied his books, followed his advice for ten years, and met him in Switzerland with our two-year-old David in 1972. The deep silence surrounding PB permeated me when I was in his presence. Sitting on PB’s lap was David’s first memory.

“Of course, you should see him,” I said fighting back jealousy. Really? The Riviera? PB? Without me?

“I’m sorry,” Vic said. He could read my feelings long distance. “I know it’s hard. Let me talk to the kids a minute.”

David, PB, & Vic 1973

David, PB, & Vic 1973

I handed the phone to three-year-old Anthony. “Hi, Daddy, you’ve been away a long time.”

I couldn’t hear Vic’s end of the conversation, but he made Anthony laugh.

“I’m going to nursery school, Daddy. It’s cold. Can we read Richard Scarry when you get home? I’ll keep Lowly Worm warm.”

It had been too long. We missed Vic’s silly jokes and playful stories. We missed his laughter and hugs.

“Bye, Daddy. I miss you, too. Bye.”

Anthony & David 1978

Anthony & David 1978

Anthony handed the phone to his big brother. Tears rolled down David’s cheeks mirroring the salty streams on my face.

“Oh, Daddy,” seven-year-old David said. “I miss you so much.” There was a pause. Vic must have been explaining his absence.

“OK…Daddy…. I know,” David said, gasping his weepy words. “Tell PB… I love… him. I hope… he gets warm soon.”

We hung up before we felt finished. Long distance phone calls were expensive then. Vic’s voice made me miss him more than I had before. I knew I was spoiled by my good marriage. I knew women who raised kids on their own and had little love in their lives, but I wanted Vic to come home.

The Short Path by Paul Brunton

The Short Path by Paul Brunton

David and I sat on the edge of my bed. He pushed into me as we wept.  I put my arm around him. Anthony stood at the doorway and watched us.

“I miss Daddy, too,” the little guy said before he went to look for his favorite Richard Scarry book. “But I’m not crying about it. He’ll be home soon.”


A few days separation felt like a big deal in 1978. Later I enjoyed being on my own, but I counted on Vic coming home in a few days or weeks. Now, longing is a constant part of my love for Vic. After six years, a little voice in me still cries out, “I miss you. Please come home.” Do you experience this, too? For other stories about my early marriage, see A Call in the Redwoods or Our First Home.


  1. Elaine,

    My husband travels for his work too, and as we age, I think more about the eventual parting we will have that lasts at least until the second death.

    Your story of how Vic was missed when the boys were young touches me. I’m sure it touches other readers also.

    As you tell these stories, you are making Vic and luminous, living, character for many who never knew him.


    • I’m glad I learned to relish Vic’s trips away from home and our time apart when I was older. I knew I would be OK with solitude.

      I have to be careful not to make Vic into a saint. He had only a few requests–one was to put his ashes near the big red oak on the knoll and the other was to make sure he didn’t sound like a saint at his memorial service. He was a little on the saintly side as he faced illness and blessed with lots of inner and outer help. Yes, luminous. Hands pressed together over my heart and a bow to you.

  2. Still missing and waiting for my daughter to come back. Sometimes I’ll run into someone or something and think how I can’t wait to share it with Marika. During this holiday season her absence stings me especially. At the Hospicare holiday event this evening it seemed so sad to have the light of my life reduced down to an index card with her name taped onto posterboard.
    But I will not allow her to fade. The longing is what drives me to do more, to push myself, to honor her and do something she would have been proud of.

    • I hear you, Robin. You will not allow her to fade and your book will bring Marika’s story to the world. Your voice is getting stronger.
      I’m sorry to have missed the Hospicare service last night. when I see all those names and candles, I feel I’m not the only one and we’re all in it together. I was concerned about driving in the storm last night, and that was a smart concern on my icy hill.
      Look at the event page on my website and your photo is there, attributed to you. Thank you!

  3. My husband traveled extensively when the kids were in their mid-teens and later when they left home. Sometimes he was gone over 60 % of the time. Our lives adjusted to a certain rhythm then and required another adjustment when he traveled less. Sometimes we had a rendez-vous In San Francisco, St. Louis, or Memphis which kept our relationship fresh and the love fires stoked. But I did get to know myself better in solitude as you suggest.

    Your colorful photos from the 1970s entwined with sharp dialogue make Vic, you, and the boys seem so real.

    • Marian, I know the readjustment part, too. When our kids were older and our marriage riper, we had to get used to being together again after every a separation.
      I like your romantic meetings in new places.
      I haven’t written about the fifteen years of our marriage when Vic was away four days and three nights a week. He taught at a university two hours from home, and we had a second little house there. For five or six years, we traveled back and forth between what we felt was home (where I live now) and our “work camp,” until the kids needed to settle in one house and one school. So, he went off on Monday and returned Thursday evening for many years. We got through it with daily phone calls.

  4. Sweet! Cliff the Artist used to supplement phone calls with tapes he created with words and musical clips. Aside from keeping a strong connection, I believe it was his way of staying out of trouble on the road too.

    • Sweet, yes, sweet. Vic sent love notes or left them under my pillow. He was a love artist, just like your dear Cliff must be. Vic loved to work hard on his teaching, writing, or other projects, so that kept him out of trouble.

  5. Sam rarely left the farm. I rammed the roads and didn’t venture very far but it makes arriving home to an empty home hard. Once he’d forgotten where I told him I’d gone and how long I’d be. I arrived home after an afternoon with women friends and spinning wheels in the Hector forest to find him fuming – mad at himself for not listening to me and worried sick with the road snowy and slippery. It’s taken 5 years to know he’s not coming back and still wishing that weren’t true.

    • Yes, I imagine that made arriving home to an empty house extra hard. I’m glad you have Daisy waiting for you now. A wagging tail helps me a lot. Vic also got upset if I didn’t return when I said I would. It was sweet to have someone worry about whether or not we made it home. I’m aware now, as I slip my cell phone in my pocket to go into the woods or even to shovel the driveway, that no one knows if I get home or not.
      I know Vic isn’t coming home, but I still wish it weren’t so every day. Longing/grief/love.

  6. Your words never cease to touch me Elaine. Every story you tell about your wonderful relationship strikes a chord in me when I read. <3

  7. Fortunately David never had to travel for work so the only time we were separated was when the children and I took summer visits to my parent’s house in upstate NY. But his constant presence at home made it even harder to accept the empty side of the bed when he died. It took me many years before I could stretch out my arms into the void that he left and embrace my loss.

    • Kim, I’m glad David was there when he was there, but that empty side of the bed…. A poignant image for those of us who have lost a partner. Embracing loss comes in waves for me. I often feel steady on my feet and then a new grief wave arrives. I do a little surfing and grow steady again.

  8. Elaine, the words “I miss you, please come home” ring in my head, too, when I think about Adrian. I don’t think we’ll ever stop missing them, even though our rich and fulfilling lives go on.


    • Thank you, Lynne. My son Anthony who was only three at the time told me he remembered this whole telephone scene. No, it seems unlikely I’ll ever stop missing Vic. I went snowshoeing late tonight–after dark, but the snow made the world bright enough to see–and I felt so alone out there. But Willow was with me, and returning to the house and the warm woodstove, I felt strong and tough. So longing, moving ahead, and compensation.

  9. Oh Elaine,

    I can relate to this essay on so many levels. When Tom was flying fighters in the Air Force, the boys and I were alone for long periods at a time.

    The line that really resonates with me: “We hung up before we felt finished.”

    In that one line, you explain loss.


    • I love this thought, Kathleen. You know this longing well. Yes, in the end Vic and I hung up before I felt finished. I guess it’s usually like that, although one part of me was finished with the suffering he endured while another begged, “Not yet. No, not yet.” Not sure I’ll ever be finished with that relationship.

  10. Such a touching story old friend. You bring tears to my eyes so easily. Your telling brings the story to life in the present moment. It is one of your many gifts. Blessings! D.

    • Thank you, Dennis. Photos add something to a little story like this.
      You make a storyteller shine. One of your many gifts.
      Blessed Solstice to you, E

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