Goodbye is the hardest word

My oldest son James moved down to Carbondale yesterday to go to college at Southern Illinois University. They are known as the Salukis, but please don’t hold that against them.

It’s been a rough week in all kinds of ways. Last minute preparation, including him finishing painting our house (!), plus packing up the rented truck. Then he hit some horrible weather on the way, featuring a tornado warning. Good times!

But the roughest part is feeling like a major part of our life together is now just … over. It’s done. He’ll be 21 soon, and he has lived at home longer than most kids that end up going off to college, so there is that. But even if he comes back in December for awhile, or next summer for a couple of weeks, it’s never really the same any more. You can’t keep pretending they are still kids just because they live with you.

We can’t go back in time, but sometimes I think it would be nice. I’d go back to the days when he was 4 or 5 years old. We had fun together. I’ve never forgotten that. Neither has he. We bonded really well, and I loved being his Dad, and he knew it. I’m pretty sure he loved having me as his Dad.

As I write through my tears, I don’t know why this bothers me so much. It just does. Maybe I regret missed opportunities, or just worry too much. Maybe I depend on him to give me something in my own life, and maybe I shouldn’t do that. Maybe we’ll all be better off and he’ll be fine. Maybe this will be the best thing that ever happened to him, and I’m over-dramatizing.

I do know this: no matter what happens, I’m going to miss him.

I learned a lot being his Dad. It was challenging plenty of times, and I can’t say I always earned passing grades, either. But whatever it was, it was there, every day, like the Sun rising in the morning. There is immediacy and intimacy about living with people that disappears when they aren’t part of your daily space and time any more.

But he’s all grown up now … more or less 🙂 … and he’s all moved out. And so that time of our lives is over.

And I grieve for that.

It was quite a ride, featuring laughter, tears, ball games, disappointments, injuries, and arguments, all the things that fit together when you live with your child. O-v-e-r.

Tomorrow we leave, early in the morning, to go see him in his new digs in Carbondale. He is so excited, you can just hear it in his voice every time on the phone. I’m very happy for him, and happy to see him so enthused and primed for his entire “away at college” experience. It’ll be very good for him, in all kinds of ways.

And then Monday, it’s back home, and his room will be just as empty as it is right now.

Maybe someday that won’t sting so much.