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Leaving for college

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Dear Hannah,

I was married at your age. You don’t even want to learn to cook dahl. (line from Bendit Like Beckham—just for fun and since you are a film girl and all)

You graduate from college in just three days. I want you to know that I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished in your almost 22 years. You are an amazing, inspiring, creative, strong, loyal, dedicated and intelligent person. Often now, when we are talking, I am awed by the maturity and wisdom of the words you speak to me. It is hard to believe that you began as that tiny, dark-haired girl with the rosebud ears that came out of me when I had just turned twenty-two. I was still a baby in a sense, and I was continuing to raise myself as I began to raise you. You were the child meant for me at that time in my life—you were the one strong enough to withstand my cutting teeth.

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The two of us–Just after you were born. You can sort of see from this picture that I didn’t know the first thing about babies.

I think you know me well enough now to know that, when faced with transitions, I tend to write. It is no different on this eve of your graduation and imminent move to California. Instead of thinking so much about your accomplishments, which are many indeed, I find myself filled with gratitude for all of the people that helped me along the way in raising you. When you were about four years old, the wise Hilary Clinton made famous the African proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At that time, I was practicing law and very reliant on daycare providers, babysitters, and your grandparents to help me raise you. This moment of your graduation will be a mountain top vista for me—a time to look back and embrace the village that helped me raise you.

Because I am not only a lover of the written word but also a devotee of making gratitude lists, what better way to celebrate your graduation from Beloit College and your leap into the world of adulthood than with a gratitude list for all who helped you along the way. I may never get an Academy Award (but maybe you will–do they give Academy Awards to Casting Directors?), but I did manage to raise you and that, my dear, is one of the singular accomplishments of my life. So here goes a list of thank you’s that would send the “exit the stage” music playing long before it was done–here’s to your village:

  1. Your dad, for believing in my ability to be a mom when we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting you during our first year of law school.
  2. My Constitutional Law professor, the late Marcia O’ Kelly, who taught so eloquently about the rights of women but also of the sanctity of family. I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant that first year of law school because I was embarrassed. I hadn’t ever planned on children—only ever a career. When you were born, in the fall of my second year of law school, Professor O’Kelly gave you a little snake, covered with black and white fabric in geometrical patterns and stuffed with crunchy, sensory-rich filling. It was less about the gift to you, but her acknowledgement that I could be a law student, a career woman, and a mother that was so supportive to me. *You too will find surrogate mothers down the paths you walk in life. Be ever on the look out.*
  3. Law Professor Patti Alleva, who gave me a job as her research assistant after you were born. She was more than flexible and accommodating of my schedule as a law student and new mom. She’s continued on in both of our lives as a friend and support person.
  4. Your Grandma Melinda, who helped out with you during my first semester back at law school.
  5. Your own Grandma Marcia, who retired from teaching early to take care of you during my second-third year of law school and the summer before my second year, so I could write my law review—the summer after, so I could clerk in Fargo, ND.
  6. All of your kind and loving daycare providers through your formative years: Kim, Kari, Cheryl, and Karla.
  7. My dear friends, study partners and fellow UND law graduates, Pat, who baked you beautiful birthday cakes when you were younger and helped us out of many needful childcare dilemmas (like when I had to go to the ER with dehydration from the stomach flu) during our Brainerd years and Shari, who lived across the hall from us in married-student housing when you were born—already a mom and law student—she first taught me how to balance career and motherhood and still being a person; she continues to do so to this day.
  8. Your Aunt Tiffany, who took care of you on short notice so many times when our daycare was closed and was such a loving force in your life.
  9. The warm, caring, nurturing relationship you (and Ethan) have always had with Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Scott’s children, Phoebe, Jake and Nick.
  10. The prayers and guidance of your broader family of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Grand Aunts and Uncles, as well as cousins of all sorts (first, second, first once-removed etc).
  11. Your Godmother and Aunt Sarah for helping out with you at so many junctures (she watched you when I had my wisdom teeth surgically removed when you were just four months old and couldn’t nurse you for a whole day—she struggled with the pre-frozen breast milk and a baby who wanted her mama). She also threw you a confirmation party when I had to be out of town on your confirmation day in 2009.
  12. Your Irish Step Dance teacher, Katie who created such a wonderful dance community, all of whom became sisters that helped to raise you.
  13. Laurie, another dance mom, who sewed you vests and skirts, because I couldn’t sew, and set your Irish Dance curls for you—in your pre-wig days—because I did not have a way with curlers or hair products.
  14. Jean, your youth group leader. You were the one that led us back to church and specifically, to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Kent Street in St. Paul. I think you found your own way to Jean, who nurtured your spirituality. Perhaps Jean was one of your first surrogate mothers.
  15. Your second mom, Cindy, who helped your dad raise you during your visitations with him and who has worked so hard to continue as a supportive friend to you after she and your dad’s engagement ended. Another surrogate mom, to be sure!
  16. Your Grandma Melinda (again) for coming and staying with you guys after your dad and I divorced, to help accommodate my business trips. She was such a huge support to me through the years and I miss her greatly.
  17. Your Grandpa Spencer, who had the foresight, discipline, and generosity to purchase US Savings Bonds from your date of birth until you began college. These funds paid for travels overseas for your Rotary Exchange and your study abroad, paid for housing costs and books while in college, as well as other incidental expenses. What a huge gift he and Melinda gave you.
  18. Your Grandma Marcia (again) and Grandpa Duane, who also both helped out watching you and Ethan while I was away on business trips or wanted to entertain my hobby, concert going.
  19. When you don’t have another parent to discuss your kids with, you really rely on your friends. As a working single parent, I did not have much time for friendships outside of work and so I am ever grateful for all of the many friends I had along the way at work who listened and laughed and worried right along with me as I endlessly shared kid stories, issues, and joys, long before any of them had children of their own. In the order they came into my life, I want to thank: Christy, Kim, the triumvirate power of Louis, Staci, and Alice (oh to the life-saving power of the corporate coffee break), Bonnie (another surrogate mother who gave me the best advice ever and I followed it too!), Trina, and Tessa.
  20. My boss (and your boss, after you started babysitting her kids!) Pam, who was really so gracious and understanding when it came to the challenges I faced raising you and Ethan as a single mom. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive manager during the near seven years that I balanced being both a single mom and a woman with a demanding–but fulfilling–career.
  21. Suzanne, who started out as my author and became my friend. She also became your friend and was so supportive always of us both. She continues to believe in you and for this, I am grateful. She is another one of my surrogate mothers and, in such a way, has become your surrogate grandmother (a very beautiful, young-looking grandmother).
  22. Chris, your second dad, who came into your life just about a year before you left for Japan. I am so grateful for the loving relationship you guys share. I am grateful that he brought you on all those college visits and got you through the bed bug experience in Pittsburgh. I am grateful for the solid, loving, supportive presence he’s been in your life throughout the past five or so years. As you know, he loves you so very much.
  23. Your two brothers. Siblings are a blessing. From Ethan, you’ve learned how to be in relation with people who are very different from yourself and I’ve watched proudly as I see the two of you closing in on a more mature, adult-sized relationship. And Josh–well, we all know that Josh is sort of like pure light and love. What could be better than a daily dose of Josh. Hopefully he’ll get better at conveying that light and love via Skype.
  24. Your Japanese Tutor, Kate, who did such a great job preparing you for your year in Japan with such a small window to work with (February through July, 2009).
  25. Your three sets of host parents (the moms in particular) for looking after you so well during your year in Japan. Sending a sixteen year old off to a strange country for a year is perhaps one of the more daunting things a parent can do. I still remember my last glimpse of your long brown hair as you went through security at the Minneapolis International Airport around 5:30 am on August 13, 2009 (I didn’t even have to look up that date—that’s how well it is burned into my head)—it was all I could do to let you go. So grateful that you had good host families and I know that your second host mom most especially became another surrogate mom and I am glad you’ve been able to see her twice now since your year in Japan. I hope you can continue to keep in touch with her in the future.
  26. Your Rotary Liaisons, John and Tom, who helped smooth out all of the many issues with your exchange on this end and many a time, helped smooth out your anxious mom who had a difficult time letting go of her baby.
  27. All of the people who prayed for you while in Japan—especially your step Grandmother, Helen, who has now passed on. Once, early on in your time in Japan, she wrote me a message that said, “Just want you to know…a silly little thing I do…do you remember when you were young and wished on a star?…well, each early morning and evening when I am outside with Sadie, I look for the brightest star, and do not ‘wish’, but pray for Hannah to find her place of joy there in Japan.” I like to think that both Grandma Melinda and Grandmother Helen are out there somewhere, looking out for you–still praying for you to find your place of joy.
  28. Ellie Roscher-your senior year English teacher at Cretin Derham Hall. She too had re-entered after a time abroad and I think it was just so helpful for you to know that at least one other soul understood what you were going through when you returned to an American high school after your life-changing year abroad. I thank God that this exceptional teacher was placed in your path the year you attended Cretin Derham (and that someone in the CDH office had recommended that you take Spectrum). She is the teacher everyone hopes their child will have someday.
  29. Three key best friends along the path of your life so far:
    1. Julia—Oh we love Julia so much. We’d adopt her into our family if we could. But I love how she stepped into your life when you transferred to St. Joe’s and I pretty quickly saw what a quality friend she was and I hoped she’d be a friend for life. It appears that is certainly the case. I think you already realize how blessed you are to have Julia in your life.
    2. Hikaru—Dear Hikaru who befriended you in your school in Nagasaki and made your time in Japan better in every way—introducing you to other friends, eating lunch with you and inviting you to social gatherings. I think it is neat that you were able to do your study abroad at a college so close to her college last year. It was fun to watch you guys (via FB on my end) reconnect.
    3. Sydney—Not everyone leaves college with a close friend like Sydney. I think you were friends with her from nearly the first day of freshman orientation—the day Chris, Josh, and I left you crying in the parking lot outside your dorm room. Knowing how she was placed across the hall from you, perhaps you can trust how all things truly do work out for our good, in the end. Sometimes our best of girl friends can also, at times, be surrogate moms to us. This is certainly true of my friend Shari’s role in my life. Embrace Sydney always, as a friend, a kindred spirit, and a mother in your time of need (P.S. I just realized that you have her listed as your mom on Facebook—kind of apropos).
  30. Debbie. I am not sure how you managed to find your career mentor last summer or how she found you, but I am so grateful that you two intersected and she has given you such a great internship experience this year and continues to mentor you in your chosen career field.

Seems to me, you’ve already learned a thing or two about finding surrogate mothers. But always remember, sometimes, as much support as you find around you, you still have to reach deep inside and mother yourself. I ask that in your life ahead, you be kind, compassionate, and forgiving of yourself. Please, treat yourself with as much loving care as you are able—it is more than okay to care for yourself in this world; it is a necessity.

And to all that I forgot on this list, and I am sure there were many, thank you. Thank you so much to all of the diverse members of the village that helped to raise my only daughter, my first born, my beautiful, smart, strong-willed girl with the teeth marks. We did it!

I love you to the moon and back into the atmosphere and deep down into the smallest fiber of my being.

With Love,

Your mom

 

  1. For the Good from Wicked (song honors you and Sydney)
  2. Which Way Your Heart Will Go from Mason Jennings (song honors process of change and not second-guessing your choices)
  3. I Will Remember You from Sarah McLachlan (song honors you and your Beloit memories—that you will one day cherish)
  4. Don’t You (Forget About Me) from Simple Minds (song honors you and all of your true Beloiter friends—Syd, Timon, Sophia, Hannah x 2 or 3, Erin, Sarah, Max, Anthony, JVT, Haley as well as many others—I’ll let you fill in the blanks)
  5. Breathe Me from Sia (this one is for the day you drive your car away from that place because this song enables one’s tears)
  6. Destiny from Zero 7 (honors the new groove heading your way)
  7. A Change Would Do You Good from Sheryl Crow (kind of self-explanatory)
  8. Good Friday from Cowboy Junkies (honors the beauty found in leaving)
  9. So Leave from Polica (honors your time with Syd at Austin City Limits and just because it’s a cool song)
  10. Leaving Las Vegas from Sheryl Crow (Honors the “muddy line between the things you want, and the things you have to do”)
  11. Ramble On from Led Zeppelin (Because you have a hippy mom, who loves Tolkien, and you went to a hippy school—“the leaves are falling all around/ It’s time I was on my way/ But still I’m much obliged/ Such a pleasant stay”) EMBRACE THE JOURNEY!
  12. Blow Out from Radiohead (Blow out of Beloit Girl!)
  13. Midnight on the Interstate from Trampled by Turtles (honors your future career that may well have you traveling the interstates, hopefully not at midnight)
  14. Driving from Po’ Girl (“that’s the trait of him that I love the most, I don’t see him now that I’m on the west coast”—honors parental love and the vagabond life that I see you befriending)
  15. Rise from Eddie Vedder (honors the ability to turn mistakes into gold—I bestow upon you parental permission to make all the mistakes you need to. It is better to try and fail than to never try at all. I admire your courage and willingness to try new things!)
  16. I Need $ from Polica (because you do need $ and it’s very danceable)
  17. Heaven When We’re Home from Wailin Jennies (honors the home you’ll always have with me and all the new homes you’ll make for yourself—“It’s a long and rugged road and we don’t know where it’s heading but we know it’s going to get us where we’re going”)
  18. Going to California from Led Zeppelin (because I’m preparing myself for your coastal or bi-coastal future)

Update: I watch the searches that lead folks to my site and I see numerous folks looking for a gradation song to share with their child. If you don’t already know about the Sunscreen Song, it is a good graduation song–lots of good advice here.

My dad shot this photo of Grandma O. getting off the Greyhound Bus, when she was visiting one spring in '77.

My dad shot this photo of Grandma O. getting off the Greyhound Bus, when she was visiting us in ’77.

That’s how my grandmother, Hydie Olson, signed all of her cards to me–“Love Grandma O.” I still have a box of birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day cards sent to me by Grandma O. She died in the hospital not long after my 15th birthday. I am grateful for the 15 years I had with my Grandma O. and her presence remains with me to this day. When I was younger, we played a game called, “Author, Author.” I don’t remember much about the game, but I still remember the illustrations of famous authors on the cards. Perhaps it was merely a more sophisticated version of “Go Fish!” Grandma O. had a love of words that came through in her crossword puzzles, Scrabble games, and poetry. Because of Grandma O., I wanted to be an “author” (not writer) when I grew up. I felt that being a published author had been Grandma O’s unfulfilled destiny. Somehow I was born as her namesake to fulfill this destiny.

Today, as I watched my oldest child drive away from our house, on her way back to college, after this last spring break spent with us before she graduates in May, I was reminded of my Grandma O.  I remember our family of six pulling away from her curb, three across the front, three across the back courtesy of a bench seating system. I can still see Grandma O. waving goodbye from a metal screen door that had an “O” directly in the middle of it. I always felt so sad for Grandma O. as we drove away. “Who will play Scrabble with her?” I’d wonder. I understand it better now. It wasn’t so much about her loneliness, although my Grandpa Roy had died about ten years before she did, it was about the constant and abiding moments of leaving that make up a mother’s lifelong work of raising her kids. While it may start with the first day of day care or Kindergarten, it never really ends. So like the tide, this going out and coming back to you, loops and crashes one leaving to the next. Eventually, your children begin bringing things home from their time away; first school papers, later perhaps college boyfriends, spouses, even children someday. And always, no matter how long or how far, you gather your child and his or her life collections unto your shores and into your arms.

When they once again go back out, as they all must do, you wave at the door and wipe away tears–just a few–before you align yourself back with your typical daily routine. Perhaps Grandma O. would sit down over a cup of coffee and finish the daily cross word puzzle after we all had left, maybe with a date-filled cookie or “Grandma Roll,” both baked specially for our visit. Just as I sit here this morning by the fire, in a quiet house, with my cup of coffee and this blog. My love of words flowing into and out of all of the leavings that have already passed.

Much love to you, Grandma O.

It’s been a long while since I’ve written an ear update. At this point, I am sure our ENT would categorize J’s tympanoplasty as a success. Our ENT not only repaired J’s ear drum (well, more accurately, he rebuilt a new one with cartilage taken from behind J’s right ear), but he also discovered the physiological reason for J’s congenital conductive hearing loss. He found that J’s first two middle ear bones were abnormally small and therefore, could not strike his ear drum. And, in any event, the right ear drum had been destroyed by J’s previous ENT who insisted on inserting tubes into his ears even after discovering in surgery how abnormally small J’s ear canals were. I guess fortunately, she never really managed to get the left grommet into his left ear drum.

During the tympanoplasty, J’s ENT emerged from surgery, told us about the deformed ear bones, and asked us if we wanted him to remove the first two ear bones and insert a titanium prosthetic device (TORP) in their place. We went ahead with the procedure and it restored J’s hearing to within normal range. In consequence, J has been unaided in the right ear for the past 19.5 months. Although J’s language development was coming along nicely once fitted with hearing aids that actually worked for his small ear canals at 18 months of age and with the help of a Moog-method based school, J’s language exploded in new and exciting ways post surgery. A few months post-surgery, J no longer qualified for speech services and in our recent check-in with a SLP, J’s expressive language ranked somewhere in the 95 percentile for his age group. For all of this, I am so grateful.

J’s right ear, however, has continued to drain intermittently post surgery. We’ve spent more time at the ENT’s office post-surgery than I care to recount here. Unfortunately, in the past two months, the drainage has kicked up a notch. His ENT thought J had an ear infection a month back, but the culture did not grow anything. When we went in for our follow-up appointment yesterday, J’s ear had begun to drain again. Our ENT suggested it was time for a CT scan to check for a cyst. I said, “Do you mean cholesteatoma?” He answered, “yes.” Well, if you want to strike the fear of God into a mother, just use the word cholesteatoma in the same sentence with her child’s name. Especially if the mother has already been through the horrors of ear surgery once before with her child.

And, sigh, . . . I’ve been working so hard on my fear-o-meter with respect to J’s right ear. In fact, I have a large number of alcoholics in my life–mostly past life but still a pivotal family of origin member who remains actively using. Let’s just say that since childhood, I’ve had a way of collecting alcoholics in my life. Countless times throughout my life, people have recommended Al-anon for me. But I always thought that I could go it on my own. Finally, however, I started attending Al-anon this past fall. Mainly because I realized that my living in constant fear over J’s right ear was impacting my health. I needed to learn how to turn that which I cannot control over to my higher power. I am working the program but I have a feeling I’ll be attending Al-anon for the rest of my life. Alcoholism is the family disease that keeps on giving. Anyway, the word “cholesteatoma” puts my mama fear-o-meter right back into the center stage of my life. Cholesteatoma is a disease that can be dealt with, but there is never a guarantee that it won’t return. I asked our ENT if J’s ear surgery increased his risk for cholesteatoma and he answered, “yes.” And then, of course, I had to ask what percentage increase came from the TORP procedure and he told me, “about ten percent.”

Well, I must admit, I thought I had finally found the serenity to let go of my desperate clinging to J’s ear health. On December 5th, we visited his audiologist for testing of his right ear post-ear infection (that really wasn’t an infection). We learned that his hearing had remained stable (no drainage at time of testing)–of course when he is actively draining, he definitely loses some hearing capacity in the right ear. I talked with our  audiologist (who is outside of our ENT’s office but we keep her because we love her so much) about J’s surgery and about how much hearing J will lose if the ENT has to remove the TORP (I wasn’t thinking about cholesteatoma at all at this point) due to the continued issues with drainage. Of course, it will be total conductive loss, which is about 55-65 dmb. When J still had his ear bones, it was about 35-40 dmb, with a reverse slope loss. His left ear still has all three ear bones, but was never quite as good as his right ear so about 40-45 dmb range of hearing. I talked about how I’d second guess our decision if he loses that much hearing in his right ear because we decided to remove the ear bones. And then, unexpectedly, she gave me a gift. She told me how she used to work as an audiologist in a clinic for kids who had lost hearing due to meningitis and she told me that even if they had had two years of natural hearing before meningitis took their hearing, it made speaking so much easier for them. She told me that this time we had given J of natural hearing (unilaterally) during his language formative years (0-5), was extremely valuable and probably weighed in favor of the surgery we had done. I left her office feeling lighter than I’d felt in 19 months. I left saying, “Okay, God (my name for my higher power). You know J’s every need far better than I ever could and I am going to stop taking this burden of worrying over this ear. I am going to stop second-guessing our decision. I am going to start being absolutely, joyfully, grateful that J is fully lingual at age 4 years, 3 months.

I had about ten days of this blissful state. And then, yesterday, I heard about the “ten percent increase for cholesteatoma.” J’s ENT also conclusively diagnosed J with a perforation in his right ear drum yesterday. And so today, it’s back to working my Al-anon program.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

CT scan scheduled for January 15, 2014. And I am so worried about radiation exposure too.

In the meantime, I am hoping to relish this holiday season. E is already home from his first semester of college and got all A’s. H is coming home in 3 days. I am so excited for us all to be together and to cook for my family and to have us all under one roof. To me, there is no greater joy than having all of my kid’s together. I do not intend to “miss” this time by shouldering the heavy sack of ear worry that I’ve been carrying over the past 19 months.

God, you know J’s every need. You love J more than I ever could. You know far more about his ears and what he needs. I put his hearing, his ears, his health into your hands. I lay my burden down. I trust in you. If this is the proverbial thorn in my side (and I think it is), you’ve told me that the only remedy is grace. ‘Let my grace be sufficient for you; for J.”

Enough. There is always enough grace for ANY situation.

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E and J eating at my favorite restaurant (given I am gluten free–and I suppose I need to begin to tell you all about my health journey this past year) before J’s ENT appointment. E held J on his lap while ENT cleaned out J’s ear under microscope. Such a loving big brother.

“Warriors” Collage

Here is a link to one of Ethan’s works of art featured at the MCAD art sale this weekend. It is a collage constructed from thousands of old comics.

P.S.  #Two is doing brilliantly at college. He is as completely in his element as I’ve ever seen. I needn’t have spent all those years worrying when he forgot his homework. He is so on top of things now. Wow. Wow. Wow. Such a complete and total joy to see the kids you’ve raised spread their wings and fly. In fact, soar. I may have done lots of things imperfectly, but maybe, just maybe, I did a few things right in raising this one.

I think that I’ve ended this blog twice now and have come back to it. Perhaps next time this happens, I just need to say that I’m taking a break for a while. In any event, I’m not good with endings; with goodbyes; with letting go.

I need this blog right now because, more than any other time, I feel in a unique parenting position (now with two in college and a preschooler at home) and I need to express into words this place where I am. I will try my hardest to not specifically discuss my children in this blog. In particular, child number two–who is the one who complained about me discussing his life on this blog. Instead, I’ll try to keep to the “me” part of parenting.

I left child number two off at college yesterday. I left him to his already-messy dorm room with his three roommates, already worrying they weren’t compatible. I left worrying about how he’d wake up for classes on his own. And worrying about his lack of interest in keeping up on the college web site or even emails–wondering how he’d know what was going on. I was sad leaving child number one at college two years ago, but I knew she’d make it. She’d managed a whole 10 plus months in Japan alone at age 16-17. How could she not manage college, only 5 hours away? Child number two, however, has not had that same type of life experience. So this is the first big separation for him. Yet, he is emotionally more independent than child number one (although she is getting there now). Chris assures me that he will be fine–that he is more than capable. And he is. He is.

When I came home last night, after dropping Two off, I found myself pulling out his birth video–still on VHS. We currently have a DVD/VHS dubbing machine set up (for transferring the VHS home videos to DVD–and when I say “currently,” I meant that it has been 4 years now and no one has completed the project) and so I rewound and rewound the tape, finally reaching the day of number Two’s birth. My ex-husband had started taping just after Two was born and placed on my belly. He was peaceful and calm. Then they took him away from me to weigh and such. Then he howled. I still remember how helpless I felt, over there pushing out the placenta and unable to reach my howling newborn. I felt that same way yesterday, driving away with my son still tired from his lack of sleep the night before (he’d already spent one night in the dorm room and I came back yesterday for orientation) and totally unsure about how he (who has always had his own room) was going to function in a room with three other guys. Number two likes his peace and solitude; needs it. I tried to encourage him to go for a single or a two-person occupancy dorm. He went for the quad, however, because it was cheaper. Two’s always trying to save money.

My pelvic region has been in pain for the past week or so. I am going to get it checked out but I am wondering how much of it was just early contractions. My womb preparing to spit out this child once again–this time to a place far apart from me. He felt it too. Indeed, perhaps he is the child most connected with me at a deep soul level. He is the most like me. And so, in preparation for leaving, he suggested we watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy during the week before he left. We watched The Fellowship of the Rings on the Sunday before he left. The middle one (forget the name–it is my favorite of the books and least favorite of the movies) on Wednesday. I slept through much of this one. On Thursday, the night before he left, we watch The Return of the King (my favorite of the movies). With each moment of the movie, I was aware exactly how many hours and minutes I had with that precious son left in my house. I never wanted a movie to drag on as much as that one. We last watched these movies together when he was 13. It was just after I had finished all three books so that I’d be able to discuss them with him (one of the best moves of my parenting life). It goes so quickly–once they reach 12 or 13 and become like these really cool people who like to do the kind of stuff you like to do. It is like having really fun friends right there with you. It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing dinosaurs on the floor with number Three (okay, well I enjoy that he is enjoying it), but the parenting years really get amazing when your kids are old enough to watch movies you enjoy (in other words, out beyond the Disney years) and can discuss novels with you and visit art museums, while intelligently critiquing the art, or introduce you to Broadway plays you never would have seen without fueling their interest. You only get about 5-6 incredible years like this and then they leave. It’s actually pretty sad.

I am quite aware that, had Chris and then Three not come into my life 5 and then 4 years ago, I would truly have not just an empty nest right now but also an empty home. I paused for a moment yesterday to think about what that would have been like, how I would have coped. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it though, likely because it is just not my current reality. Instead, after dropping two off, I came home and hugged number Three just a little tighter all evening long. After all, he’s turning four years old soon. I realize quite acutely how these days of playing dinosaurs on the floor will eventually give way to days discussing and reading The Lord of the Rings and then, one day, the day when I too will leave him off at college. For today, however, I commit to really being in every moment down there on the floor with the dinosaurs and the puzzles. I am finally starting to recognize that my role as “mother” is the very best and greatest of my life.

Panida

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