I thought it was over. I thought the separations and goodbyes had already happened. Then this week began with a whole new set of yuck. It’s time for the youngest to head off to college. It is spring semester, yes, a little late. Everything about it has been out of the ordinary. He was admitted last fall and delayed going in order to attend boot camp. He received scholarships and had to put them all on hold for the same reason. Graduation gifts were non-traditional for the same reason. Marine poolees headed to San Diego don’t need towels, sheets, and shower caddies.
So, this weekend, we made the obligatory Wal-Mart run for sheets, hangers, trash cans, and giant tubs to pack clothes into for move-in. Move-in. Let’s talk about that. As of today, exactly one week before the start of classes, here’s the situation: We don’t know which dorm he has been assigned because he was unreachable during the fall when he should have filled out all those necessary forms. Orientation and registration are exactly two days away, and we don’t have confirmation that he may even attend that, as he just registered for that last week as well. And Unlike the older sister, whose college decor and supplies filled the living room floor for a full month prior, we leave tomorrow night with a few boxes and maybe an inkling of a dorm room floor plan! And I’m okay with that. Or I was until last night.
You see, in May, when he graduated from high school and headed off to California on June 4, I went through the mourning. I made that mental separation in a roundabout way. I promised him I would organize his bedroom, grow it up into a college look, add some “big boy” feel, and clean out. That I did. It was therapeutic. He came home, unloaded all that military issued garb, met up with friends, and in two hours, it appeared he had never left. To my heart, though, he had. He came home the same dry-witted, sarcastic, funny guy, but more grown up. He came home a Marine.
I was completely unprepared for last night’s emotion. What I hadn’t realized over the last seven months is that he had not made that separation. When he graduated from high school and headed off to California on June 4, he got dressed and boarded the plane with the clothes on his back and his Bible. That’s it. You see, the Marines don’t let you bring anything. If you need it, they issue it. There was no packing. No looking over his belongings to see if he was forgetting something. So that mental separation that I made, he hadn’t done yet.
Last night, Kevin kept asking, “Is he packing? Is he in there playing video games?” The answer to both was no, but he was kind of just standing there. He had clothes in his hands and was going through the folding motions. He needed some prompting. He didn’t know what and how much to pack for only a semester in a dorm. But it was more than that. I stopped in his doorway.
“This is weird,” he said.
“Packing?” I asked.
“Well, you’re moving out,” I said.
“No, I’m not,” he answered.
“Okay, then, you’re sort of moving out. You’re trying to decide what things to take, what things to leave but keep, and what parts you don’t need.” In this process, he found a few items that no longer fit, did a little reminiscing, and finally developed a system.
What finally registered with me was that he was looking back and separating. He was getting that moment of letting go that we had already experienced (which, by the way, only served all weekend to make us appear heartless and anxious for him to evacuate). I’m sure all of our nagging to pack, make the phone calls, register for orientation, check on housing, etc. did feel like a giant push out the door. Maybe it is? I don’t know. I mean, we want to see him grow. We want him to chase those dreams, whatever they are today and whatever they may change to tomorrow.
We want him to be a success. And if that means he’s got to pack up and move out, he’s got to pack up and move out. Even mama birds push babies out of the nest in hopes that they fly.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise