Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting Through the Launching

I started the countdown more than 400 days ago. I told myself, and others, that I was not going to have RR’s leaving for college sneak up on me. By being aware of the day’s passing, and how many more days remained before my oldest would be launched, I would make as much as I could of each of them.

Last Wednesday, the day before that “final” good-bye, I realized that keeping this count was a spiritual discipline. Watching those days disappear from the desktop of my computer that kept track of them I was prompted to say things to her that needed to be said, telling her things she needed to hear. My doing that prompted her, modeled for her and gave her permission to do the same; saying things she needed to say, telling me things I needed to hear.

In all those days we did not say everything that we needed to say to one another, or hear everything that we needed to hear. But we said a lot, and we heard a lot.

On that day before leaving her at college I knew that what I had said up to that point was all I would say for the time being.If I tried to say anything "profound," anything more than “I love you,” I would break down, break up, break apart.

When we reached that good-bye I knew we had said and heard enough, to get us, or at least me, through. And that’s a good thing because I could not have said, or heard, anything at that moment for the muting, deafening peel of the rolling thunder of emotion that surrounded us and shook the ground, solid ground it turned out, upon which we were standing.

On the plane, going home without her, I read an article that quoted the Chief Executive Officer of Campbell’s Soup. Reflecting on what had just happened in our family, I paraphrase him: one cannot talk one’s way through something one acted oneself into. One can only act oneself through such situations.

All the talking—or enough of it--has to be done, for me at least, before a moment of good-bye like that one. The time for talk is past; it’s time to act one’s way through it. In this particular situation, there will be time for more talking, later, but good-bye is a moment I have to just go through with it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember saying goodbye to our younger son four years ago as he started college. There was *so* very much I wanted for him to learn and experience. So many ways I remember growing in my young adulthood and so many things I can see that he needs to learn.

Each time he's visited since then, for a month or three, I find that he's grown in one of those ways or learned some of those things.

The college he chose was pretty academic, so his early time there included a great deal of academic learning. Then, in his junior year, I noticed him reveling in the personal relationships and collegiality of being part of his academic department.

From there it was a short step to finding and supporting a close group of friends who lived in a dorm suite. At graduation, this diverse group hosted their parents and families for a potluck meal. Their love and support for each other was palpable.

As a graduate assistant, he can afford off-campus housing (we hope). In a new town he is setting up housekeeping and forming working and personal relationships all at once. He'll learn loads in the next months. It will be the kind of education in how to get along in society that I've thought he's needed for a long time.

I'm thankful for all the support he's found over the past four plus years. A school that paid at least some attention to it's human and spiritual environment. Family friends in the new college town. Young adult Friends here in the Northwest.

Jay T.