I haven’t been able to bring myself to really read about it, let alone write about it, but it’s everywhere anyway. My friends and neighbors, and even Rob Lowe and Maria Shriver are experiencing it and writing in excruciating detail. I keep seeing references to that song by Nichole Nordeman everyone is talking about, but I do not have it in me to listen. It’s all over my news feed, populated by pictures of kids who were once babies and now men, some with shaved heads going to military schools, and some going so far that it makes me catch my breath and I’m not even their mother, but really, they were all babies five minutes ago, weren’t they?
I am fighting involuntary tears like I’ve never done before. Even when my mother passed, the crying wasn’t like this. Then, it seemed like I sobbed every day for five months, and then after that sometimes took a day off. This is different. I am running from tears, keeping my mind busy and yet, the strangest things will set me off. Waffles. Laundry. The sound of video games. Today, I cried as the congregation at Mass stood and held hands during the Our Father. As a cantor, I was in full view of everyone, (it should be noted here that I have the BEST church family in the world) and regardless could not hold the tears back. I did so because I shared a quick glance with my daughter that told me that she knew and I knew that she knew that this was the last Mass for a while that it would happen like this, brother and sister holding hands and praying, sharing their own kind of church language together. Next week it will be different, as he is moving to school in just six days from now. I cried again as I watched him approach to receive Communion, so handsome and respectful and full of light that I would be impressed with him even if he weren’t mine, even if I hadn’t watched him do this every week since second grade.
In six days, I won’t be waiting up for him to come home. I won’t hang his towel or pick up his milk-filled cereal bowl. I won’t hug him every day and kiss his forehead at night. I won’t see how sweet he is with our dog, and how she responds to him like he is the morning sun and evening moon combined. And yes, I know I will experience that all again at Thanksgiving, and I know he’s not going far, but there is no denying that we are crossing a line here that will never be crossed again. There is no going back from here and that’s as it should be.
Too, I know the anticipation is likely the hardest part. I’ve probably been thinking about this week in some way since he was six and going to school full days for the first time. Since then, he’s been stretching, growing, and inching away from me, becoming more his own and less mine, speck by speck, through the grades and years.
And now here we are, six days left, and there is a pile of bedding and snacks and school supplies that is ever growing in a corner of my dining room that will soon be packed into a van and unloaded into a cement-block room, along with my baby and a big chunk of my heart. That boy made me a mother. He made me change and grow and learn faster and better than I ever had before. He taught me how to seek God’s path for me and how we both are filled to the brim with promise and possibility. He made me stronger, more confident, and more fiercely loving than I ever thought I could be.
Now he’s going to teach me how to let go of something I love much more than myself, because it’s the right thing to do for him and for me. But I hate it, and I’m scared and sad, and that’s all I can really say about it today, six days out.