The sun rose on this day like any other, except it wasn’t like any other. This day we would drop our youngest at college. Except unlike other years, I wasn’t just losing another child to higher education, I was closing the book on a season of my life. All of these thoughts passed through my mind as soon as I woke and we still had packing to do. Reluctantly I climbed out of bed and crossed the room to take a shower. My husband takes great joy in waking the rest of the house, I was too blurry-eyed and emotional to do anything but get dressed, so I left the waking up to him.
So far it seemed the day was as difficult as I’d thought it’d be.
Once we’d filled three vehicles to the brim, we struck out north with no plans of stopping until we reached our destination. May as well have said #collegeorbust on the windows. This type of thing we like to do as a whole family, so my older son, who will also attend the same university this fall and my daughter were along for the ride too. All we needed was “granny” sitting on top of the car in a rocking chair to completely look like the Clampetts! (Remember the “Beverly Hillbillies?”)
I cried most of the way there, promising myself I would get all of my tears out of the way so I could fully enjoy the rest of the day.
It seemed like a promise I could keep at the time.
As soon as we rolled onto campus, a lump formed in my throat that wouldn’t go away, but, I willed myself not to give into the sadness. We wandered around campus a bit looking for a parking place all the while taking in the energy of college life. Sometimes I think I might like working on a college campus, as a matter of fact, I offered to apply for a job on this very campus thinking I could be nearer to my boys. I wish you could’ve seen their faces when I made this proposal to them, priceless!
My middle and youngest children took off to get their room key and left us to start unpacking random room supplies. They were quick to return, key in hand ready to start the daunting task of setting up. Did I mention their room is on the FOURTH floor? And did I also mention the elevator was across the dorm and their room was right next door to the stairwell?
Days like these I know the Lord has a sense of humor.
For the next hour or so, five, and eventually six adults unloaded three vehicles one painful trip up the stairs at a time. It was about four hundred degrees, give or take, and the stairwell was even hotter. But after about a million steps, we finally had it all in the room. We halted our work for a quick bite to eat and then returned to start setting up a “home away from home” for my boys.
With every box I opened and every piece of clothing I unpacked my heart broke a little more. How could eighteen years be over already?? Seems like yesterday I was holding him, stealing kisses. In the midst of the unpacking I tried to steal glances at him, so many times he would catch me and smile back. I kept wondering how in the world I was supposed to be able to drive away and leave my baby child in this big unfamiliar place? And how could I walk back into my house and face the empty bedroom and the utter silence there would be without him?
How would I survive?
All the while, I unpacked.
I folded shirts and put away shoes, hung pants and made up beds. Anything to keep my mind off the inevitable. I then made multiple trips to Wal Mart, bought too many water bottles for the fridge and lingered until I had no more excuses to stay.
And then it was time.
It was getting late and I could tell my college student wanted to explore the campus. Basically, big brother wanted to show little brother around and there was no room for Mom. I understood. We stood by the door and took a few pictures while the lump in my throat became a boulder. I was determined not to leave in tears. When I finally agreed it was time to go, both the boys gave me big hugs and my youngest held on a little longer than usual. I wanted to keep holding on and drag him to the car and take him home, but instead I forced myself to squeak out how much I loved him and how successful he was going to be on this new venture.
Then I turned, walked down the four flights of stairs and headed to the car.
I cannot tell you the sorrow I felt. It was like a giant wave of sadness. I was leaving behind my baby, closing a door on a season and I wanted to turn and run far, far away from what felt like madness happening to me. I couldn’t speak because I knew the tears would come and never stop, so as our vehicle pulled away, I stared out the window and waited until I could gain my composure.
And I needed to talk to my mom, nobody cares like your Momma. Oh how hard life can be sometimes.
I’ve had so many people tell me to be thankful, and I am. Others remind me to be joyful and I want to. A few tell me to count my blessings and I do. But what I feel right now is sad, I just want to keep it real with you all. I know brighter days are ahead, I know the Lord will see me through, but I need to be able to process all that has happened in a twenty-four hour period.
I love the movie “Inside Out.”
I loved Joy and I love being joyful, and I love the way this movie shows the importance of feeling the appropriate emotion for the circumstance we find ourselves in. I appreciate how Joy understood before the end of the movie that Sadness had “her” place too; and how important it was to allow sadness in order for Riley to be able to return to a healthy joy. It is appropriate to be sad at a time like this, it is a time of loss and it hurts. I want to feel the sadness so I can grieve and eventually appreciate real joy as it seeps back into my soul.
The drive home was pretty quiet, except for the hour we stopped for dinner, comfort food at its finest.
I promised myself I would have a good cry once I got home where it wouldn’t cause a scene. What I wasn’t prepared for was the small folded white piece of paper neatly sitting on my bed when I walked into my bedroom. There were two actually, one for me and one for my husband. I knew immediately from the writing on the front who it was from and I busted into tears before I could even unfold it.
Through bleary eyes I read the sweetest note from my eighteen year old man child thanking me for being his mom and for investing in him. I read it and re-read it. I am going to save it forever. You give so much of yourself as a parent and you don’t do it for thanks, but when thanks finally does come it’s like this wave of peace and joy all mixed together rolling in and over your worn soul. It fills broken places and illuminates the darkness of sorrow, it is splendid.
As you can imagine I cried myself to sleep that night, and I’ve cried off and on since. But, each time I shed tears I’m reminded how much I’ve loved and how I would do it ALL again in a heartbeat. These child rearing years have been the best of my life. I have given much and now I get to see all that God is going to do with the beautiful lives of my offspring.
Another season has started as this one closes; and even though I know many good things are ahead, I’m still not quite ready to jump into it. I’m just putting my toe in the water for now as I adjust to the temperature of this new place.
One day at a time is my goal, that and no more unloading rooms on the fourth floor, two mantras to live by.