Maybe the child doesn’t have the grades or the motivation. Maybe finances prevent a child from going away to college. Maybe the child just wants to be home. Maybe the child got caught up in the wrong crowd or was in an accident or got sick. Maybe that child didn’t make it.
I know I am one of the lucky ones. My oldest is off to study chemical engineering at a small, private college that offered him all he was hoping for in the way of adventure and academics and some really nice academic scholarships. I couldn’t be more proud of him.
But at the same time, I felt a bit frantic and a touch of sorrow this summer, our summer of lasts.
It was the last time my family would ever be the same again. One of us was moving out, moving on, leaving the rest of us here. To continue. Without him.
It was as though a piece of us was being lost, and even though I was happy for him and proud of him, it still caused a lump in my throat every time I thought of it.
I tried to determine whether all parents go through this. I’m sure they do, but I’m equally certain that, as a divorced parent, my loss is compounded by feelings of abandonment and sadness in wounds that were freshly healed.
My husband walked out suddenly when I was five months pregnant with our 5th baby boy. When I say suddenly, I mean suddenly. We had just renewed our vows that Valentine’s Day; he announced he was leaving on Mother’s Day and moved out one week later.
There was no opportunity to patch things up. There were few warning signs. We had some difficulties, but all marriages, all relationships, do. He left saying I was his good friend. He left with me saying but I’m pregnant and wondering what had happened and how it had happened so quickly.
My husband’s leaving was sudden. It was devastating. It was heartbreaking, and I, like those who have lost loved ones to death, often found myself in the months that followed thinking, “What if I had just one more day…?”
After my husband left, I often wondered, if I had known I had just one more day with him, how I would spend that day? What would I apologize for? What would I ask of him? What would I do for him? What we would do together? What would we do as a family? What snapshot would I take to memorialize all our love brought into this world? How would I capture every last moment and hold it in my heart forever?
With the 20-20 vision of hindsite, what would I be willing to do to keep my family intact?
Now, with my son graduating from high school and preparing for college and especially after dropping him off and missing the chance to say good bye (another story), I was continually assaulted by the unbidden, often shocking knowledge that my family would never be the same again, and that once again, there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Whereas my husband’s leaving was sudden and shocking, I’d been given 18 years to prepare for my son’s leaving, and yet, I still wasn’t prepared. I wanted to cram a lifetime into every moment.
There was so much I
wanted needed to tell my son. Where do I begin apologizing for all the mistakes I’d made, all the mean or selfish things I’d said or done over 18 years, all the times I should have said or done something but missed the opportunity, all the times I wanted to be perfect but instead was just me?
How did I teach him in these last few moments all I had neglected to teach him these past 18 years? How did I warn him about the evils of this world? How did I tell him I was sure, with God’s help, he’d handle everything just fine?
I knew all summer this time was coming. It was as though a cloud loomed over the future that only I could see. I’d begin making plans only to realize he wouldn’t be part of them. I took fun family times and removed myself from the fray to snap pictures in a lame attempt to memorialize every moment, to capture every moment and hold it in my heart forever.
I dropped my son off at college. I had 18 years to prepare and I found myself totally unprepared, glad he’s going, happy for him, proud of him, but wishing I had one more day.
My son’s leaving is nothing like his father’s leaving, but at the same time, I know my family will never be the same. We will never be complete as we once were.
And it’s a Good thing.
And one day, I’ll even be able to say it with a dry eye.
I Love You Troy and am so proud of you. Thank you for these past 18 years; you have blessed my life. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter brings for you – and for the rest of us too. God Bless You…
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