Yeah, I’m not quite ready to let my son go, yet. But the day draws nigh. Nigh!
We are three days from “move in” day, and no amount of cheery videos featuring the Anderson University football team lugging boxes and bedding up three flights of stairs is making me feel better.
I know—this is a survivable life event, based on the fact that no one has actually expired from sending their firstborn child to college.
I know—college is a good thing, a true beginning, for my child, for the Class of 2016. He is three days away from meeting lifelong friends, mentors, and professors who will change his life.
I know—he is headed straight for an experience which will fuel his passions and be a guiding light in his life.
He will have professors speak into his life and say, ‘Hey, you have a gift for music’, or ‘I see this in you,’ or ‘This particular thing, it’s not your thing. Why don’t you go in this direction instead?’ This happened to me in college, lo, these 25 years ago now. I was a broadcasting major who figured out that broadcasting was a technical field, involving plugs and wires and input/output types of choices that bewildered and befuddled me. I emerged from those four years a print journalist, having discovered that my true gifts lay in the written word.
“You can make a living as a writer, you know,” my journalism professor, “Cal,” said to me as we walked with the other members of “The Moody Student” newspaper staff, on our way to Oprah’s now-defunct restaurant in downtown Chicago. Our goal? To celebrate our award-winning year, and to spend some of the sheaves of filthy lucre earned by selling ads. (Our business manager, Francis, from Singapore, was a genius at getting local businesses to cough up cash for ads.)
Those words are etched in my soul.
Who will engrave words into my son’s spirit? I am betting more than one person will.
“Remember,” my friend Cynthia, an English professor and writer, said, “there are professors waiting to love Jonah, and teach him and help him grow into his potential.”
Those words, maybe more than anything I have heard from friends and loved ones, hit the mark. Because they rang so true for me.
Dr. Rosalie deRosset, a fierce, shaping force, taught me to be a critical thinker and to not take a backseat to anyone because of my gender.
When Dr. Rupert Simms, a Bible/black history professor, gave me an ‘A’, I knew I had earned it with my every corpuscle (One of our cats was named Rupert).
Professor Cal Haines brought his friend, an editor from Rolling Stone magazine, into our journalism class one day. This Jewish editor did not condescend to our class of floral-wearing, mostly fundamentalist Christian students, some of whom were immediately suspicious of him. “Your faith is a gift that you can bring to the world through your writing,” this decidedly non-Christian guest speaker said, passionately, sincerely. And something in me was lit, not just by the guest speaker’s words, but the way Professor Haines beamed at me when I raised my hand and asked a zinger of a question, based on a Rolling Stone piece his friend had written. (Our newspaper staff office, naturally, had a fish named Cal.)
What will be lit for my son, for his friends and classmates, some of whom I hold dear, some of whom I have watched grow from four-year-olds to the thresholds of their future lives? Who will they name their future pets after?
(That’s a loss, too, by the way: the Class of 2016. This beloved group of classmates are all scattering like light into the world. When I show up next at the high school, and I scoop up spoonfuls of Tetrazzini for hot lunch, that group of kids won’t be there anymore. They will be in colleges all over the US, and on missions trips to New Zealand, and even going to community college downtown. But they won’t be there, and I will miss their faces.)
I know—Jonah will be in great hands, carefully chosen hands, and there are great things ahead of him in the next four years as a music business major.
But I will miss him so. I will miss his crooked smile, our discussions about politics and current events, and the soundtrack of our home, which is his guitar.The day we drop him off at college will be the day the music dies (except for the 11-year-old’s oboe—that will remain alive, soooo alive).
I know–I’m being dramatic–the music won’t die, as in the song and the plane crash that killed iconic musicians–but it will be absent. Quiet. Missed. Except for the oboe, of course. We will not miss that for some years to come.
I will miss our family of five, this sturdy, treasured entity we have built together over 18 years.
I will miss our life together and the dynamics as they are.
I will marvel—again!—that HOLY COW that went by fast! And I will wish for one more day with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little boy to play mini sticks with, to read “Hiccup the Seasick Viking” to, to sing “Jingle Bells” in all seasons with.
Did I do enough for him?
Is he ready to face the world outside our home?
Will the world appreciate him like I do?
Rob Lowe calls his life with his family “the world as I loved it” in his achingly tender and funny essay—called “Unprepared”– about his son, Matthew, leaving their nest.
The world as I loved it is ending, even though they tell me I will love future worlds, too.
I know—I have much to be thankful for. He’s alive and healthy; so am I. No one died, or went to rehab or prison. I CAN help him pick out bedding and pay for his toothpaste and his thrift store mug, which he thrust out to me in the store and said, “for hot things.” He will come back and the music will come alive again, and we will be a family of five again.
Everything will be the same, and nothing will, ever again.
It’s a true beginning for my son, and a true ending for me. But also, maybe, a beginning.
It will hurt on move-in day, and for a while afterwards. But I know, I’ll be proud. I know, despite my real grief at this passing of an era, I’ll be excited to watch the next chapter of my child’s life unfold.
I will see him take a foothold on his new path.
I will witness him taking flight in the direction of his beautiful dreams.