(This was written about three weeks ago, when I was anticipating sending Ellie off to college. Much has happened since then, so I will follow this up with a “real-time” update soon…)
August 15, 2016
There is a stretch along the rocky cliffs of California’s coastline where the houses are falling into the sea. Some gracefully slide in slow motion, maintaining a sense of dignity right to the end. Others take the rough and tumble “let’s just get it over with” approach, plunging down to the shore in a jumble of flying wood, glass and memories.
But the kind the newscasters seem compelled to capture and broadcast to those of us at home in our nice, stable easy chairs seems to defy physics. The cameraman will take a long shot of a lovely home with decks and huge picture windows perched on the edge of a cliff, suspended between the precipice and the shore far below. And when they take the invariable close-up to interview the homeowners I’m always surprised at a certain calm resignation. (I picture myself in their shoes: ranting, jumping in and out of the frame as I gnash my teeth and pull out my hair.)
This week I’m feeling a bit like the owner of some “iffy” oceanfront real estate myself. I’ve already lost one major part of my family structure when Steve died (in a sudden flash, full of drama). That was two years and much healing ago. And now I look up and see that another huge wing of my home is perched on the edge, teetering between yesterday and tomorrow. I know that–very soon–I will look up and it will be gone. She will be gone. You see, my girl’s going off to college.
But wrenching as it is, this time is so different than the loss of Steve. We always knew that Ellie never really belonged to us. Instead, we had the privilege of coming alongside her, pouring our hearts into her life and soaking up all of that pure joy that came back our way. We realized that this season of parenting was a temporary one, and that if we did our job well, she would eventually leave us.
And this is where my cliff analogy crumbles apart. Because, while the sense of impending loss is truly powerful for me, equally strong is my sense of excitement for her. She’s not about to fall into a million pieces, but instead, to begin building her own structure, her own life. As it should be.
So this time around I will join the ranks of parents everywhere who will be experiencing this normal ritual, this “good” grief. We will help our kids schlep and set up all of those shiny, new lamps, trunks and laptops, then pray that we won’t be that parent who melts into a tearful puddle before even leaving the dorm. (Between you and me, I’m hoping to have my meltdown back at the hotel in a nice, hot bath with a pint of Haagen Dazs. I’m sure I will fill the tub with plenty of tears of sadness for me and happiness for her.)
And when I make it back home, please be patient with me as I adjust to this next season of life, settle into this very empty nest, and try to figure out what God has for me next…