Today was another one of those days that although I knew was coming, I was hoping that it wouldn’t. My son, who is now a junior in college, was ending his summer break and returning to campus. Even though he is in his third year of studies, this is only the second year he has lived away from home. His first year of school was spent at a local community college and he commuted to his classes every day. That year was a good one. He buckled down, studied hard and was accepted the next spring at SUNY Albany where he now studies history.
When I drove him to campus last August, I had that feeling that I suspect most parents get when they take their first child to school for the first time. I was nervous about whether he would make friends, make the right decisions, study and eat right (the list certainly doesn’t end here). Would he be able to survive without the sage advice of mom and dad? Would he be able to survive without having us as a back up when he needed us? Even though he knew that he could call or text us at any hour of the day, I didn’t think it would be the same.
As you all probably have guessed, he made it through the year just fine. He made friends, made the right decisions, studied, and according to him, ate from the four food groups on a daily basis. When he came home in May, he endured the endless barrage of questions about grades, future plans etc. The summer passed without incident, and it was truly nice to have him home. The sound of him coming out of his room to see what was going on and the creaking of the cabinet doors opening as he searched for food comforted me but at the same time made me sad.
As the day for him to return to school got closer and closer, I began to feel worse than I did last year. When he went away for the first time last August, I knew that he would be home for all of the usual college breaks. At the end of the year, he would come home for the summer and then return to school again. He would do the same again this year as well. But as the month grew shorter, things felt different.
Even though he still has two years of school left, after he graduates I will have to resign myself to the fact that his time with us will essentially be over. He will get a job, possibly marry his girl friend, and begin life without his parents. Of course this is what we hope for when we have kids and raise them with the values that we hope will provide them with a quality life. But, and this is a big but, we never think that time is going to go by so quickly and that the time for them to leave will eventually be at our doorstep. I will always think of him as my little boy.
As my son and I made our way to Albany this morning, the conversation settled on the usual topics. The upcoming college football season, his classes, and of course jeep wranglers. We talked as we did every day, and at one point, as the conversation dropped off and the miles flew by, I turned and looked at my now almost twenty year old son and remembered the day we brought him home from the hospital. I remembered the time playing catch with him, running and jumping in puddles after cool summer rains and playing outside after a heavy winter snow. Most of all, however, I remembered the hugs. Hugs that would come when he wanted something, when he was hurt or just when he wanted a hug. Hugs that I’m sure made us both feel good.
After getting him situated in his room, we returned to the jeep to make sure that he had everything. I felt a pit in my stomach as my son grabbed his lap top off of the front seat and I knew it was time to say good-bye. Will we both survive his last two years of school? Of course. Will we both survive when he graduates from college and starts his life? Of course we will. But time goes by without pausing for anyone or anything.
As we hugged and said good-bye, I told him that I loved him and could only think once again that life goes by way too fast. Oh yeah, that hug we had just shared? It felt as good as the first one did almost twenty years ago.