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When making life choices, I seem never to take the easiest path to anywhere. From choosing a middle school out of my district (because who doesn’t want a clean slate. . .at eleven years old?), to choosing to keep the baby I conceived whilst losing my virginity, to marrying a man I knew I wasn’t in love with because the man I was in love with wasn’t ready to marry me. Yet. (We’re married now! But, I digress.) The trend has not ended with age and wisdom. Nay, for me the whole “you are at eighty who you were at eight” appears to be SO. Very. True.
My oldest son moved away a few months ago. This is normal life-stuff. He is nearly nineteen and a freshman in college. Of course, he moved away. However, eight days before he moved five hours north of where we live, my family and I sold the home he was raised in and purchased a brand new home on the other side of town. Eight. Days. That’s what I gave myself between two life-changing events. Have I mentioned, I am not very good with change?
As it turns out, neither is my son. So, here we each sit. Disheveled and unsettled. Anxious yet excited. Proud of our accomplishments, and sorely missing the joy of sharing those successes with one another. Parallel experiences, making each moment of growth that much more bittersweet. You can’t be a mere sixteen years apart without some degree of healthy (?) codependency. I find comfort in this, whatever his future therapist may say. . .
Now, more than a full month later, everything still feels wrong. Half-finished. Paused. Tonight we had tacos for dinner. Without Jesse. Tonight I tucked my children in and hugged each one goodnight before climbing into bed. Well, two of my three. Because there is now always someone missing. Always one chick fallen out of the nest. Now instead of walking through their rooms on my way to sleep just to see that they’re safe and sound, I have to text and hope that he responds before I fall asleep. Or worse, I have to make myself not.
I don’t care what anybody tells you. When the nest starts to fall empty, it really, really sucks.
Maybe if I’d waited to move out of the home he grew up in. Or maybe if we’d moved into this new home just a little bit sooner, so he had more time to leave his mark here. In this way, when I wallow my biggest wallow, I find my mope to be intolerable. I know women who have lost children. Cancer. Car accidents. Suicide. Mine just went to college ~ it’s every mom’s dream! How dare I?
Let me share a little secret with you ~ everybody has their own hell. I have been lucky enough not to have suffered the loss of a child. Well, that’s not true. I’ve lost several, but all in the womb. My point ~ I am not so shallow that I don’t see how insensitive this can be to those that have suffered the unimaginable. It’s just that because I haven’t. . .because I was given this gift of seeing my son grow into an incredible person; a brilliant, compassionate, talented person who I genuinely enjoy and admire, when he’s gone it leaves such a void in my heart. In my day. Please don’t make me apologize for that. I know I’m lucky to have him at all. The thing of it is, that doesn’t make me miss having him around any less. . .
So, I cry sometimes. I mope often. I play the piano, and I miss my son’s voice after school every day.
Last Monday was the first day of school for my two younger children. Jake is a brand new sophmore, with all the confidence and swagger of a triumphant senior. (Teenagers, am I right?) Noah, king of the first grade, hops somewhere between gentle sweetheart and ninja warrior. My children are phenomenally different, and I like all reasonably good moms, treasure them with everything that makes me, me.
There is one more in my nest, and his name is Jesse. Today was the very first day of his freshman year at the University of Florida (Go Gators!!!) While walking around Gainesville during preview weekend, I felt at times overwhelmed by the understated elegance of this bustling college town, and the tangible accomplishment just waiting within reach of my baby boy’s extended arms.
Here I am, former teen mom turned grown up Realtor, writer and mother of three. My biggest accomplishment to date is that none of my children turned into the harsh statistics I was warned about by Ms. Burke – my high school guidance counselor. (People don’t forget, Ms. Burke. I still hope you regret the HORRID advice you gave me in my time of need!!! #couldntBemoreWrong #IRaisedAWonderfulManAnyway #AlsoIMarriedHisDad #SuckIt) Ahem. I digress.
It would be easy to feel inadequate in a place as steeped in dignity and accomplishment as the campus of U.F., with the sweeping live oak trees draped as they all seem to be in whisps of moss, and the sprawling brick buildings that add character and charm to the natural beauty of Gainesville as a whole. It’s safe to say, I was impressed – but more than that, I felt immediately at home. Jesse will be safe and successful in this place. That is the feeling I was left with, which is as nearly as surprising to me as Jesse was himself, nearly 19 years ago!
It isn’t that I imagined mourning for his absence all the long years post-high school graduation, but I will confess: I really expected to struggle with the not-knowing that comes of more than four hundred miles between our front doors. Finding comfort in the campus was a lovely surprise. Here’s one surprise however that’s less lovely: life continues to moves on without him in it.
School has begun for the two little birdies still in my nest, and we’ve returned to the years old routines of waking up before dawn, singing silly songs in the car during drop off and pick up, negotiations of milkshakes for green days and hanging out with friends for extra chores around the house. But I have one less person in the car to sing with. One less place setting for dinner every night. One less person to share my days with. . .
My unexpected milestone turned out to be just making it through the first first week of school, minus one. It didn’t pass without tears. Or cookies. Or wine. But, I survived. And do you know what? So did everybody else. It’s time for my baby gator to get out there and begin living his own life. I’m just grateful he’s found such an incredible community to help lay this new foundation!
Still, he’d better come home for the new Gilmore revival. Some things should never change! ❤