Last year, we launched the first of our four kids—my eldest biological child, which I wrote about here, here and here. Our loving, lovable young man was happy to come home this summer and burrow back into his fetid nest for a few months. It literally took 45 seconds for the reasonably clean-smelling and orderly room, which functioned perfectly as a guest room during the last year, to bounce right back to its former condition, in both humidity and odor: something between a locker room for Vikings and an orphanage for abandoned dirty socks. He stepped through the door of his room in mid-May; I saw the wheels turning and a trickle of smoke slide out of his ears as the gears engaged. After quickly scanning the landscape of clean, horizontal surfaces, including couch, bed, dressers and floor, his duffel bags vomited forth a year’s worth of clothes and shoes, water bottles, bottle openers and receipts, and he pronounced himself “home.”
At the mid-way point of the summer, I started feeling a little blue. I thought about having to do it all. over. again. I plugged along, distracted from the second coming of going by the amount of work I wasn’t getting done because I was too distracted by having kids in my workspace every day. Fast forward to this week. Tomorrow, he’ll be driving away in the car he bought with his own money this summer, to his first apartment; he probably won’t be too focused on the rearview mirror, as it should be. Sniff. The anticipation of what he is going to create for himself on this planet gets me through the sad moments, when I re-live the slow-motion, stage-by-stage uncleaving of mother and firstborn. Other things that get me through the sad moments of the second parting include his tallness in my space while I’m cooking dinner, the way he sneaks up behind me and plops the cat on my head while I’m cooking dinner, and his pile of clothes and wayward hairs clinging to almost every surface in the bathroom.
It’s nothing like the first time, but the blade is still dual-edged. This time his stuff is piled on the ping pong table in the garage. He doesn’t want any help packing it and I’m not arguing. He’s got a car, and he says he’ll just hit the drugstore and grocery store in Reno for his provisions when he gets up there. After all, he’s got wheels. The banking is all situated. I didn’t have to help him with that either, other than having my husband explain it to me as I smiled and nodded and tried very hard not to ask too many questions. I asked my son if he has his bills organized, and he said he had it all taken care of—car payments, rent checks, etc. All figured out. He didn’t want me to tag along to the mall a few days ago to pick up some clothes he needed. Alas, he allowed me do his laundry this week, so I had that to cling to, and by cling to I mean make a little pincher-like tool with my thumb and index finger as I sorted through six loads of smelly socks, shorts, t-shirts and towels. I enjoyed folding it neatly when it was done, knowing in a mere 24 hours, it would be upside down, dirty and wrinkled. Oh well, the pleasure was mine and the one job I had was done.
It’s a rough time to say goodbye, however, as recent events among his peers have cast a long shadow; the young men and women of his local cohort group have learned about loss, both sudden and tragic, as well as anticipated. They have felt the pain of their own grief, and witnessed what goodbyes look and feel like for other people, including parents who don’t get a chance to say hello again to their children.
So, I’ll hug him hard before he gets into his car and look him in the eye and tell him I love him and that I’m proud. That’s about all he seems to need from me, so that’s what I’ll do.