The countdown started on Monday. My first day back from vacation. Rachel is off to school. And three days from an empty nest with Eric packing up for his freshman year. (The short week felt like repeated bouts of getting up quickly from reading on the bed. Disorientation. Stabilization. Disorientation. Stabilization. Grab an arm rail pal. Get a grip. You can’t slow down the clock.)
The Chariot was packed and ready to depart for the 11-hour journey. (No, the King doesn’t pack. The scope of his competency is narrow and deep…and some would argue not that deep. Best for him to stay well out of the way of logistics.)
It was impossible to see out of the side windows. Every square inch of trunk and 1/2 of the back seat was stuffed to the roof top. Changing lanes was a roll of the dice. Normal humans would invest in a car-top carrier, rent a van, or borrow something larger…not this Cat. The $500 expense on top of the college tuition was the tipping point. So, we jammed it all in and off we went.
The King was sitting in a cubby hole behind the driver’s seat. (Oh, what delicious irony. My first memory of Eric was driving him home from the hospital a few days after his birth. I was driving at far less than the speed limit and slipping glances back to see that he was okay.)
And now here I sit. He’s driving. Gangster music pounding away on the radio. I’m barking orders from the back telling him to stop tailgating. To stop changing lanes because it’s impossible to see cars in the blind spot. And to try to keep the car between the lines because I was getting nauseous in the foxhole with all of the zigzagging. (Is it possible that life moves so quickly? It seems like last week he was eating spaghetti with his hands and putting the empty bowl on top of his head and giggling. That was over 17 years ago.)
New Student Convocation was at 11:30am at the Chapel. Students sat separately from parents. (He’s here. Yet we can’t see him. I can’t feel him either. Usually I can at least feel him. Why can’t I feel him? Despair rolls in. Our new reality.)
The Reverend Timothy L. Auman, the University Chaplain, proceeded to give the Invocation. “…and let us pray…let your child’s homesickness be replaced with the warmth of his new home…” (A sharp piercing memory slashed by. I couldn’t place it. Was it real? Was it a TV show? The cow had its calf taken away. She wailed and wailed all night long. Can’t anyone stop her? Can’t anyone bring her calf back? I couldn’t shake off the memory…and I couldn’t stop the flow of tears.)
Eric turned to his Mother. He gave her a long hug. (When he was little, we forced him to give us hugs and a kiss goodnight. By his early teens, it had become a disciplined routine for him. He did it even when his friends were around. We haven’t had them in a while, yet, in the past week, he’s come back. You could sense that he knew that time was short.)
Eric then turned to me. He gave me a long hug. He said “Thanks for everything Dad. I love you.” (I couldn’t find ANY words. All the oxygen seemed to whoosh out of my lungs. I kept swallowing hoping to catch some air. To try to find something to say. To tell him that “he was my calf.” Yet, there was nothing there. Nothing. I squeezed him harder. I wanted…and needed a few more seconds.)
I managed to sob out…”I love you too Son.”
And it was time to go. We decided to skip the overnight stay and drive through the night. We couldn’t bear being in the same city but not in the same house with our Son.
The car was now empty. No blind spots. And we have 11 hours of quiet time to find our way…and our way home…to an empty nest.
- The Last Supper.
- If there is a God, he was here today…
- Rescue me…
- Reflections (Morn of Eric’s Graduation Day)
- Break away for 1 hour for one of life’s delights…
- Like Father, Like Son? Not!
- Guest Post: Eric to Mom
- Wednesday for Women: Who are you calling a Mama’s Boy?
- Tic, Tic, Tic…6 months to Empty Nest
- He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me…
- The Believer of Convenience.
- Week in Review: Down but not out…