Letting Go, part 2: The morning after
This morning, we got up early to take our son, Michael, to the airport. I am now, officially, an Empty Nester. Inquiring minds – AKA family and friends – have been asking how I’m faring. Give me two minutes and you’ll be able to judge for yourself.
Mick was too excited to sleep last night. He was so wiped out this morning that he overslept and, as a result, we all rushed around like chickens with our heads cut off. When we got to O’Hare, we discovered that his flight had been switched from American to United. Luckily, Rafi and I had not yet pulled away, so we tossed everything back into the car, dropping Mick, a few minutes later, at the proper terminal.
Contrary to expectations, I did not choke up during our curbside good-bye. I’ve been anticipating this moment for a long time. When it finally came, it felt sort of anticlimactic. When I got home, though, I found myself at loose ends. I had a lot of nervous energy but had missed out on going to the Y. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by tackling Mick’s room.
Under normal circumstance, it looks like a bomb went off in there. My approach is to either avert my gaze or keep the door firmly closed. When the mess starts getting to him, he takes care of it. Eventually. His abrupt departure this morning aggravated an already bad situation. Our friend, Mindy, is coming to visit on Sunday, and I thought it would be nice to give her Mick’s room, which has a small, attached bathroom. Leaving it all untouched until he comes back months from now seems too much like something out of a creepy movie about weird and unhealthy relationships. No, thanks.
I opened the door to many damp towels, soggy and stinky work out clothes, out-sized shoes everywhere, in short, about what you’d expect to find in a teenage boy’s room. I easily filled a jumbo laundry basket with stuff to recycle or toss out. Progress was made but Good Housekeeping will not be knocking on our door anytime soon.
After doing a few loads of laundry and grocery shopping, I wanted to get cracking on an article or two that have been bouncing around inside my head for the last few days. But, I was constantly interrupted by friends and family, offering words of consolation now that Mick’s flown the coop. It’s hard for all of us (including me) to realize that I have pretty much made my peace with Mick moving on. Cleaning up his room for Mindy was one more necessary step in letting go.
A slight digression
I loved nursing. I found it such a perfect opportunity for bonding. With the girls, however – twins and undersized preemies – I often felt like a cross between Elsie the Cow and a gas station open 24/7. This time around, we had the luxury of not having to share – we were a duet, instead of a trio. On his second birthday, mostly weaned, Mick gave it one last try. The well was dry. He shrugged philosophically, smiled, and ran off to play. This separation feels like that – exactly the right moment for both of us as we advance to the next phase of his life and our relationship.
Children don’t grow up all at once. They leave home in increments. With Mick, it started with that last carpool, then, graduation. Almost immediately, he left for the North Woods where he spent eight weeks as a camp counselor. When he came back, he was not exactly dogging my heels, looking for quality time or heart-to-heart conversation. His mind was clearly elsewhere.
At the same time, I think Mick is a tad concerned about his mother’s mental state. In the last several weeks, he has been busy gently dropping various suggestions for things I could be doing, projects, people I could reconnect with, in his absence. He is very conscious of the hole that he is leaving behind.
Here’s something to kvell* about
One of the big advantages of sending Mick to a very small high school is that he was able to develop some great relationships with teachers and counselors. He became particularly close to his history teacher, Harvey Gross. After Mr. Gross was hospitalized last year, Mick began a campaign to get him to take the stairs, eat right and begin a regular exercise program. Upon graduation, he delegated the role of slave driver to his friend, Victor. Their encouragement and Harvey’s hard work have paid off. There’s a lot less of Mr. Gross these days – he took off more than 100 pounds! Last week, the two of them had their farewell outing. They went to a very fine, local restaurant. Michael picked up the tab. I found this out inadvertently. When I inquired, he said in an endearingly understated way, “He’s taken me out so often and been so kind to me. I wanted to return the favor.” Really, who could ask for anything more?
*to swell up with pride when talking (or even thinking) about a loved one