He’s Gone.

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.


Photo Source: Growing Up. by Jay Fleck via teachingliteracy

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Comments

  1. LaDona's Music Studio says:

    Very touching post, Dave. I have no words… but I feel for you and am dreading the day myself. Time is going far too quickly indeed.

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  2. Good thing you stopped writing where you did. I couldn’t read any more through water-filled eyes. (sigh…) There, there. You’ll get used to it. Next week you’ll kick up your heels and go on a second honeymoon.

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  3. Well, that made me really cry… I feel your anguish and I feel your love. You’re a wonderful father, my friend.

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  4. Loving our kids means sometimes we have to let go so they can absorb all the great lessons we’ve been teaching them as parents. It’s never fun but we find comfort in knowing it’s the best thing for them. Now you and Susan can move on to the next chapter of life – quality time learning more about each other, no kids 🙂 .

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  5. All I could do is cry, cry some more, and then go hug my kid. Your kids are very lucky.

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  6. Speechless. Can’t image that feeling but will soon enough. Thanks for sharing and you all will be great and move on to the next phase of your lives!! Just go easy on the ice cream…lol.

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  7. For awhile the house may fee too big, the silences too long and what do we do without someone to remind about every little thing on a regular basis (hint – DON’T start doing that with your wife. It was a real buzz kill over here – short lived though it was). I wish I could tell you where the time goes – and how it began to accelerate horribly as soon as our babies are born. How the smells change from delicious baby soap to soil ground into the skin from play to adolescent stink to something assuredly adult. This is a new chapter for him – and for you. The first few pages are for adjustment and tears – and then the adventure will truly begin – for Eric and for you and your wife. And you’re going to have a most excellent adventure.

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  8. Reading through tears, David. You convey the myriad of emotions so beautifully. I don’t have children, so I can’t speak to this chapter of your life from that angle, but I am quite certain that Eric feels your love across the miles and carries your voice in his head and heart. You’ve raised wonderful children, it’s clear. They willbe fine and will thrive thanks to all the nurturing you and your wife have given them. Now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor….

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  9. Oh I’m sobbing David…what a beautiful post! You are so blessed ~ thanks for sharing!

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  10. David, you’re killing me. I’ve done this three time with one more to go and I had to take three breaks while reading this. You really conveyed the exact feelings so perfectly. Now stop it!
    I hope you will do something nice for yourself and your wife today. This is all as difficult as it is wonderful. You’ve done a good job and the reward is watching them walk away. Ironic, isn’t it?

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  11. Thanks for the reminder to listen to, hug and be patient with my kiddos. Time is flying by.
    I was moved by your emotions and honest writing.

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  12. Michael Zahaby says:

    Wow! Wow! Evoked incredible memories of that long ride back from Fairfield to Haverford, PA. Deeply touched. Good luck to Eric (and to you both sans Eric)

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  13. Tears and understanding. As “Magnolia Beginnings” said, we know we’ve done well when our children feel strong enough to leave. It’s amazing how much more I understand my parents as I begin to share experiences they went through. My mom has become the person I turn to as these life lessons become my own.

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    • Thanks Laurie. Yes, well put. We are confident that both of our children are well prepared for what comes next. Rachel has proven that out. And I have no idea that Eric will do the same.

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  14. I am right wih you on this one,David. Our youngest went back to school on Friday, and the nest is officially empty of offspring for the first time. It’s an adjustment, to say the least. But I agree with your readers – it’s what we want for our children. If you’re interested, I recently wrote a post about the empty nest as well: http://connectingdotstogod.com/2012/08/05/mamas-dramas-and-leaving-the-nest/

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    • Hi Judy. Thank you. Thanks for pointing me to your post. Thoughtful and moving. Particularly liked your close: “There comes a day when it is time for children to leave the nest. I understand and applaud their instinct for independence, and mama drama notwithstanding I’ll encourage and pray for them from my nearby perch.” Thanks for sharing.

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  15. You have a reason to be sad. It is the beginning of the end, but it sounds like you have a terrific relationship with your son, and it will just be different! You should be one proud guy that you managed to establish such a good tie to him.

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    • Thank you. It is a time for sadness. And this too will pass. Some of us (me included) have a tendency to wallow in it for a bit longer than is appropriate but I’m giving my permission. And thank you again, I am very proud of my son (and daughter – I needed to add her or I’d never hear the end of it).

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  16. Beautiful writing. To be able to do this with all the emotion is special. We need to continue to stress you out to bring out this level of writing. Just kidding, relax and work through the transition. Once again, beautiful writing.
    – Michael

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  17. I hesitate to comment, David, because you take even replying to your post comments so seriously, it must require you to dig back into the subject again, when probably all you want to do is shut up and think it through. But I just wanted to say how brave I think you are to post this, and to be so openly vulnerable. Truly authentic, and an inspiration to us all in how to communicate with meaning.

    My warmest wishes to you all. (From your side of the Atlantic this week).

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    • Michael, thank you. I hesitated responding to any comments at all. Interesting you mentioned it. I will say, though, that I get incredible inspiration from you and the others. Not responding would be rude. And I’ve found that responding is therapeutic. Would have never imagined this to be the case 9 months ago. I feel privileged to be part of this blogging community. It has been a wonderful experience. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. Means a lot to me.

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  18. Wow….Very moving! Good times will come. 2 years away for us..

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  19. Mark Thomas says:

    Very touching indeed. I went and gave my teenage son a big hug after reading it. He pushed me away within two seconds but still!

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  20. When I first read this yesterday, tears came quickly, but words have taken much longer. A beautiful and poignant post, Dave. At the heart of the sorrow, the missing, is the depth of the love you have for your son. That is something precious. A bridge that spans any distance.

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  21. Awe, I love this! Thank you for sharing. I found you on Tom Ross’s page and I’m glad I did. He’s been such a huge supporter of my writing. I feel so blessed to be finding such open and honest writers! I have a 2 year old son and it is already sweeping by me, so quickly! Sounds like you have so many memories that will last forever… 🙂

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  22. Wow…needed the kleenex box today. My heart goes out to you and Susan. I can’t imagine the feeling and truly am not looking forward to this day.

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