Tomorrow marks the beginnng of a season of big days for our family. It’s open house for accepted students at Cal Poly SLO, so it will be Zack’s first time on campus as a future Mustang (technically Mustang 2.0 since his high school mascot is also the Mustang). And while Zack is wrapping up high school years, Jake is wrapping up his own under-grad work at Cal Poly and is preparing for his graduation in a couple of months. It’s starting to sink in and the butterflies inside my gut are starting to wake up and stretch their wings. Here we go!
Four years ago, we had two graduations, too. High school and junior high. But we really had one thing on our mind: Jake was leaving…how would we make it without him here every day? We brought a new puppy into the house (Sandie would never “replace” Jake, but she was a good distraction!). And as hard as it was for Darren and me to think about him leaving, it broke our hearts that Zack was sad to see his brother go.
I’ve learned that I tend to deal with my emotions in advance of the “big event.” As we pulled out of the dorm parking lot four years ago, leaving Jake for his first week at college, (I thought) I felt pretty good. I looked at Darren and said, “I’m doing okay,” only to see Darren’s lip quiver and drops falling down his cheeks. So much for okay! We pulled into a parking spot and held each other, sobbing. We went to our motel, where I could barely tell the clerk my name without breaking down, and I asked her where we could get coffee nearby. “I make the best cup of coffee in town, put your things in your room and I’ll get some made for you.” Hug-by-coffee. I’ll never forget her.
Little did we know something else was brewing and that Mom’s shingles weren’t really a shingles issue at all. She had multiple myeloma (cancer in her bone marrow) and we were about to embark on an unexpected journey of doctor visits, hospitals, fear, joy, pain, grace and heartbreak…everything we could imagine. All things were suddenly put into perspective.
About Jake, as much as we missed him, we learned that “two or three hours away” was more than manageable. He flourished and did well socially and academically. (Did I mention socially?) He’s grown into a young adult that we enjoy every bit as much – more – than before. Then Zack’s personality began to shine without his older brother’s safe, cozy shadow. He’s gotten four years of being in the spotlight and it’s been fun to watch him grow, too!
So here we go again! We’re very different parents than we were four years ago…different people in a lot of ways, I’d say. And this time, it will be just D and me here at home. Empty nesters.
This is going to be interesting, but I think we’re going to be just fine.