It’s one of those days. A day where the clouds and the rain seep into my bones and the nostalgia of these past months makes me weep. I walked by a picture of Cooper today as a baby. It stopped me in my tracks, sucking me into the time sucking whole of memories and whispers of where the time went. I am trying to move toward the after, trying to move toward a space where the thought of him leaving doesn’t move me to tears and physically hurt. I could wish it didn’t, but it does.
I am embarrassed. I have friends who lost their daughter this past year. I have friends who are fighting cancer and life threatening health issues. I have dear friends who are grieving failed marriages and some who are facing financial catastrophes. And yet. I can’t move past the grief I feel. I read on a Facebook post somewhere these past few months that your child leaving for college isn’t everything. But it isn’t nothing, either. It’s something. I am trying to tame this something, mold it into a manageable stone instead of living with the gigantic boulder it is.
You may be tired of reading. I get that. It’s ok. I am just not done writing about it, yet. I let the feelings come. I let them wash over me when they do, when I can. It’s part of the ride, it’s part of the journey. My dad told me the day I got married (I was having a bit of a melt down over some silly detail that I don’t even remember, and then had a melt down over having a melt down because I didn’t want to have a melt down on my wedding day …) to take it all in. The good, the bad. That life was rarely, if ever, one emotion. That even on the happiest day of my life to date, there may be some bad. Feel that, experience it. Take it all in. It is the tapestry of those feelings, those emotions, that give life it’s texture, it’s depth. I have kept those words with me, and I am feeling them now.
I had a sweet conversation in the grocery store today with a casual friend. (Funny how there are people you meet and know and you never have the opportunity to connect, really plug in, but you know you would be good friends if you had the chance.) We chatted casually over the carts and the carousel of my bags. We talked easily about college and school and kids and parenting and motherhood. I laughed as I walked away — a few simple moments in Meijer gave me the opportunity to spill. To give voice to the ticker tape in my head. I said I wasn’t excited. I also said I am almost to the point of “let’s pull the band aid off already”. Both things were true — both statements I wasn’t aware of until we talked.
I am not excited. I am so sad. I can’t think of his impending graduation and journey onward without feeling a deep grief. I like him. I enjoy him. We are a tribe of five, and I don’t want that to end. When we found out we were pregnant with Aiden I remember feeling such peace that my family felt complete. I knew he was our final piece. For all these years I have been happiest when we are all together. For all these years I have felt a little disconnected when we aren’t. People say high school is the best years of your life? Not mine. The best years of my life have been those I spent with my five.
I get he’s not leaving forever. I get he will be back next summer. (In fact, I felt the first bit of lightness I have had in months when I realized this past weekend that next year at this time I would be getting ready for him to come home for the summer!) Many things won’t change — but so much will. I don’t do change well. I don’t relish it like some do. I like things to be predictable, I like them to be consistent. I eat the same thing for breakfast and the same thing for lunch for months (ok, years) on end before I tire of the taste and change. For the first time in a decade I do not know what the next six months will look like. I don’t know how they will feel. That unsettles me. We will handle it, but the unknown is yucky. (I can’t think of a more accurate word. I realize “yuck” is a little juvenile but really, that’s what I feel. Yucky.)
Raising children is a bit like ground hog’s day. In a good way, for me. Every year we sign up for baseball at the same place around the same time, same for lacrosse and same for football. The school year starts after Labor Day and Thanksgiving and Christmas are predictable and … the same. This year – I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how a college schedule will impact us. I don’t know how his football schedule will mold our lives. Not only will he not be here, I also won’t be doing the things I love to do with him. It’s an absence and a loss.
I do wonder if I will feel better once he’s gone. The questioning and wondering about how it will feel and what it will look like will be over. Face Time and care packages will take over for lunches dropped at school in between games and dinner on the table when he gets home from a double header. I wonder if I will read back on these blog posts and be able to say, “If I could only see then what I see now.” I hope so. I do know that my other boys, my sweet boys who are grieving also, need this to be over. This long goodbye is getting tedious. The “Senior Year” sheds so much light on the graduate it leaves less of us to spread around, and they deserve more. I know they will each have their turn, and I have tried to be sure to focus on them as well, but it is time our energy became more balanced and the upending that happens during this transition to settle. At least for a a few years until we do this again …
Last night I sat in our hot tub alone, unusual at best. It was twilight and I was hoping the warm water would soothe my aching back. The lights were on in the kitchen and through the window and sliding glass door I watched my boys mill around, getting snacks after practice (or eating dinner #2). I could hear them talking about their days with E. They laughed at snapchats they were watching, Cooper recounted his round of golf after baseball. I could see them. Each one. Without them knowing I was watching. My four boys. My heart and soul. The very reason I am tired and aching. The reason I breathe and the reason I write. The reasons I cry and the reasons I laugh. I will miss this. The five of us under our roof. Knowing they are all tucked in, lunches packed and laundry clean. Knowing their bags are packed for practice and school. I will miss the connection I have to this day to day. I am looking forward, toward the after, I just can’t see it clearly yet.
We are in the home stretch now, Prom is a few weeks away, then quickly will come the last day, the parties and celebrations, the last baseball game and graduation. I will stay present, I won’t wish for happiness or pray for peace. I will take it one minute, one day, one event at a time. I will feel what I feel. I will write about it and talk about it. I will let it wash over me as life should. Because as hard as I am trying to see the after, I do not want to miss the now. Even as it hurts. Even as it stings. I want to watch him spread those strong wings. I want to see him fly, I want him to see me cry and know that while I am so proud, while I am so happy for his dreams to be sprouting and taking shape, I am sad. I want this because I want him to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that life is both beautiful and tragic and joyful and sad, that the ride up depends on the ride down.