Today my mom is driving on the highway in Florida to be with my father who awaits open heart surgery. I failed to mention she is wearing a clown costume. The yellow yarn wig, red nose, big shoes, makeup, the whole thing. My mom is 74 and today she graduated clown school. My dad was supposed to be there clapping and taking pictures but his body had other plans. My mom was laughing and crying on the phone with me. “I will just change in the bathroom at the hospital,” she tells me. What I wouldn’t give to be at reception at the hospital or a nurse attending when my mother walks in as Rosie, the clown. I cannot for the life of me begin to dig for the metaphors here. My parents moved to Florida just three weeks after I moved to Chicago. I am forty five years old and this is the first time in my life I have lived a plane ride distance away from them. Given the close nature of our relationship, it felt so fitting that we were adjusting to new cities simultaneously. My mom and I exhanged tales of our acclimation. We both got lost multiple times a day. We both found the makup stores we liked. We both were looking to create new and meaningful work. And though we were at different places, times zones and phases in our lives we were both learning ourselves anew again. I took comfort that despite our distance, we shared such a similiar journey. When my mom called me on Friday to tell me that my dad was in the hospital because of his heart, I ached over our distance. I could hear the pang of dependency that the two of us have respectively shared throughout both of our lives. We have in many ways lived a life safely protected. For the past few months, in the wake of forging a new life in Chicago and resolute to heal some old wounds, I have been trying to shake off that little girl I recognized in her own voice. My mom has spent her whole life leaning staunchly on my dad to make her feel safe. And yet paradoxically, my mom has an unyielding sense of adventure. The older I get, the more I recognize how much of my mother lives inside of me. For better and for worse. “Mom,” I said to her. “You have to be strong now.” My mom’s vulnerability is what makes her beautiful and what makes her seem so young, so timeless. What must give her the courage to want to be a clown at her age. “I feel so alone,” she said into the phone. I thought of my dad’s heart. How it was asking for help. How his heart has loved so broadly, so quietly, so perfectly. It was his turn to lean fully on her. I prayed she would see how capable she was to step into this role. Here we both were, given our respective chances to parlay our discomfort into newfound strength. Pema Chodron wrote in the opening of her book, When Things Fall Apart, “Don’t go letting life harden your heart.” Ironically, my dad’s heart remains intact and pure. It’s not his heart that has hardened, but the arteries around it. Thank God, it’s all fixable. His flow will return to normal. His heart will continue to strengthen as will my moms’ in different ways. My mom is awaiting the arrival of her adult children. This is one of the great joys of her life: Her children together. There is nothing that could ever replace being present for the people we love. I have a one way ticket because whatever I have going on in my life outside of this can wait. As time passes and my dad shifts from surgery to ICU to rehabilitation to home, I will return to Chicago and resume the work of my life. My mom will trust that she can too. My dad’s heart will beat stronger. And we will heal together and apart.