A few days ago, my husband and I pulled out of our driveway in both of our cars. One was loaded with three of our five kids and the other with a good deal of our first-borns possessions, our eldest child and much of my heart. Flin is leaving for his freshman year at Clemson University and his departure is causing me to be saddened beyond belief.
For the past 18 years I have known this was going to happen. It is a normal flow of life. You have children, you raise them up to have opinions, make decisions, become productive members of society and they move on. Somewhere along the way someone forgot to tell me that your heart aches when they leave. And while college is not exactly moving out of the family home and starting up your own life in a separate living space permanently, it is, at least for us, the beginning of that process.
Clemson is far away. Prior to making the trek south in June for freshman orientation, in my mind the university was four to five hours due south. To be exact, the school is eight hours away at 80 miles per hour. Roughly 640 long highway miles with direct air flight service from BWI just once a day. To my aching heart that translates into How will I get there quickly if he needs me?
Fortunately, my head knows I will most likely go unneeded. Confident, self sufficient, personable and smart, Flin is more than ready to go. While I sometimes question some of his nearly-19-years-old decisions, I know in my heart he knows innately the difference between what is right and wrong, how to do the right thing and practice what would Jesus do? a frequent Hyre family mantra when someones actions are in question.
So why am I so sad? In short, despite his messy room stacked with dirty laundry, dishes, school papers and stuff, breaking family rules about eating on the new furniture, and a host of other teenage habits, I am going to miss him. I am going to miss driving him to countless sport practices, attending his fabulous band concerts at George Washington Middle School and then Gonzaga High Schools concerts in beautiful historic St. Als sanctuary, swim meets, water polo and lacrosse games and Phil his trumpet tutor.
I will long for his ribbing of the little kids at the dinner table, his rushing out the door in the morning, late since he carries his mothers trait of trying to do too much, and his leading the procession at St Pauls Episcopal Church carrying the crucifer down the aisle as he serves as head acolyte. Most of all I am going to miss his sweet words of I love you, mama and his big hug which is especially large when I know he wants or more importantly needs a favor of me.
Some part of me wants a do-over so I will remember to appreciate all that has gone on with him the past eighteen years. Having five children and all of the chaos of raising them now causes me to I fear I may not have hugged him enough, told him I love him enough, imprinted on his heart what is on mine. I want to think that I have done my job well and that he knows all of this. However, I am afraid to point blank ask him because I know there are no second chances in life.
As we pack up his room and ready for the trip I know I am nagging him to clean up the mess; irritating him to the nth degree as I tell him one of his little brothers will most likely take over his space for the months he is gone. I think in his heart, he wants to leave and hope that everything at home will remain the same as it has been the past eighteen years. We both know this cannot happen yet neither of us is willing to initiate this painful discussion. So it goes unsaid.
Daily I thank God that I have four other children to take my mind off Flins departure and his new life without us. I gladly appreciate the distraction of elementary school summer worksheets to be done, books to be ordered and read, sport practices to be driven to and back to school supplies to be purchased. The reality of experiencing with Jack, Mimi, Davis and Hews a college departure and the beginning of the next phase of their lives and mine looms somewhere a hazy horizon. Fortunately for the moment that horizon feels distant. And for that I am grateful.