If I felt everything changed the day she left for kindergarten, then surely everything really would change the day she left for college. The sadness I remember feeling when she left for elementary school surely could not compare to the grief I would feel as she left for college.
I remember the first time it hit me. It was spring break of her junior year. She and I were at the college for a visit. The day was sunny, beautiful and rather exciting. I remember thinking how fun it was to be doing this with her; my parents had not taken me on college visits and I was feeling blessed by the experience.
Then I glanced at her walking beside me and my chest suddenly felt crushed. It came out of nowhere. My throat constricted, my eyes welled up and the first wave of grief crashed into me.
It hit at random times over the sixteen months. The waves came more frequently those last few weeks before the move. One day while on the patio by myself a big one hit out of nowhere. I felt like my heart skipped a few beats and I had a sharp intake of breath, tears sprang to my eyes and I felt consumed as grief washed over me.
With that as my backdrop, I spent little time thinking of the upcoming moving day. The calendar just kept us moving toward it, and then rather quickly it was here. The day we moved her was beautiful; sunny and hot. The college had the whole freshman moving day thing figured out. There was an unmistakable air of excitement. We got almost everything up in one trip, laughed hard as she and I tried to figure out how to make this lofted bed! Even as I helped, I tried to stand back as she figured out where to put her items in her tiny space...so hard for a mom who loves to organize. Then it was time for lunch, then time to meet her lovely roommate and saying a quick hi to her family, off for a Target run, back for last touches and then good-byes.
She was as excited, comfortable, and confident as you could expect. She had dinner plans with Katie, her friend since second grade, and her El Salvador traveling partner. It was good. I was feeling stronger than I expected.
Then her baby sister wrapped her arms around her neck and about broke in two. Oh, oh. Tears sprang to my eyes. . .but grief stayed at bay.
Her 6'2" brother wrapped his arms around her - practically engulfing her. Pride at these sibling relationships swelled within me. . .and grief stayed at bay.
Even when her dad pulled her in for a hug. . .grief stayed at bay. When I wrapped myself around her I knew in my deepest parts that she would be fine. I was not saying good-bye. I wiped a few tears and knew I was saying hello to this amazingly, wonderful young adult daughter of mine, and new chapters were about to unfold.
I credit God with granting me strength for those moments and the ones that followed. The drive home was quiet for awhile as these siblings took in the new dynamic that would unfold as these three musketeers became the two amigos. It was good for me to be one who was strong and confident in the knowledge that we would all be okay, that indeed we would all be good.
To be sure...I miss her in this house. I miss her in my daily life.I wonder about her more times than I could count in a day. And in all of that, its still good. We parented toward this. She is making friends, being responsible, becoming independent.
Everything did not change, many things did and will. But its kind of like finding out your favorite book didn't end, there were many more chapters captured in volume two. . .and you just discovered volume two. . .and you cant wait to see where the story goes. . .
(For those of you wondering, yes we have 4 children. We did make some fun arrangements for the youngest to be home where he could experience a successful day and not cause disruption which could have been avoided. Sometimes a mom just has to make decisions like that.)