By Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal
Her mother and I agreed that it wasn’t exactly the way we envisioned saying goodbye. We hugged in front of the Target as the remnants of an afternoon thunderstorm kept the parking lot in puddles. We’d wound up there after the initial dorm room inspection and unpacking that morning had induced one more round of binge buying.
She and her roommate would return to campus, their extra college living supplies in hand, and we would get back on the interstate and head home to a nest now empty.
It was just as well, her mother said. Had we exchanged our goodbyes on campus, someone – and not our daughter – just might have lost it.
We had known for a long time that this day was coming, and that it would feel different. For 23 years, eight months and 11 days we had housed children in our home, three in all. For the last three years, it had been just her, most of the time.
It was time for us to join the ranks of married couples who, having sent the last one on, look at each other and say, at least for a fleeting moment, Now what do we do?
Then you start to think: A lot of things that we couldn’t do before, or that we haven’t done in a long time. In other words, this could be an adventure.
You take stock, of course. Did we do all we could and should have done? Did we strike the right balance? Did we teach the right things?
Were we tough enough? Were we soft enough? Did we love enough?
There’s that cliché about roots and wings, and as tired as it is, it’s hard to come up with a better description of what most parents want to give their children. When you are rooted you are much more inclined to be bold and adventuresome. When you are secure in the knowledge that you are loved, the world is a less threatening place.
Honestly, it was the clichés that kept coming to mind as the day approached. Such as: Where did the years go? How did they grow up so fast?
Most of us never make the most of the present, that’s for sure. We’re too busy thinking about the past and especially the future. That’s part of why we feel that tinge of regret when the future arrives and it seems that the time has just raced by.
“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” is the way John Lennon put it.
We all make plans for our children. We have to. It’s a big part of being a parent. And much of that planning is geared toward the day when they’re old enough to leave home and strike out on their own – whether it’s the semi-independence of college life or the full emancipation of life in the great beyond.
When the time comes for the last one to leave, you hope that you can say, with at least some degree of conviction, that we did the best we could.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.