“If you love someone set them free
(Free, free, set them free)”Sting
Here I sit in Oakland’s Jack London Square at a brewery called Original Pattern figuring I should write something since apparently Jack London is the first American author to make a fortune from his craft. Oakland and Berkeley and the whole East Bay area are really weird; in a good way. I don’t think Austin really has a weird leg to stand on compared to these places.
My oldest son is now a freshman living on his own at Cal Berkeley. We moved him into his dorm yesterday and he said, “Goodbye, forever.” Luckily he laughed after but the way that kid has been behaving lately, there might have been some wishful thinking on both sides at that moment. I know he will sooner-than-later long for the family life he has despite often taking us for granted. Of course we are always going to be a family, but miles of distance between us can lead to a distancing of Will’s mindset with his mom, dad and brother. Freedom for Will is going to be interesting.
I haven’t shed a tear. I have only excitement for Will. There might have been a split second of a heavy heart this morning when I saw his empty bed in the hotel room we had shared the previous two nights, but it passed quickly. That can happen when you have a kid snapping at his parents all the time. Thanks for the help coping with the emptying of the nest, William.
I don’t think too much about the future, other than obligations and perhaps more importantly, dreaming and scheming. I like to live in the moment. So, although I wonder how Berkeley will go for Will and what he will do after, I really just hope he appreciates the now. Like last night; his first night ever officially not living with his mom or dad. Did he go out with his roommate? Did he meet new friends for life? Did he bother to close the window on his first floor dorm room before he left? Did he eat anything green?
I have moved locations since those first four paragraphs. I am at Heinold’s First & Last Chance Saloon which is made out of a whale boat’s wood and Jack London’s legacy. I can see the water, the public marina’s bathrooms, a dog eating a chicken bone, some clueless tourists, a few locals not making eye contact and an amazing future. I know, I know; I just said I don’t think about the future. My eldest son is 8.4 miles away and embarking on an adventure of opportunity greater than the view of the San Francisco skyline across the bay. He will always be my baby boy but I acknowledge and accept that he is his own man.
I haven’t been teary-eyed about this milestone in Will’s life, but goddamn I’m feeling him in my heart. He can (and often does) snap at me for asking a question I should know the answer to and interrupt me when I say something ridiculous to him and he can “emphasize” a short answer in effort to shut me up rather than explain anything; but goddamn again, I love that kid so much.
I am proud of both my children. They amaze me, through the good and bad. I think I will miss Will telling me he did nothing last weekend when actually I find out he went to a party, hosted a tree planting initiative and had sushi with Ella. And somehow, I will even miss him being irritated by me one thousand percent of the time. Now I can only irritate Drew.
Most of my friends have already sent one or more kids off to college or have had them leave the nest to get a job. I’ve appreciated the many texts saying good luck and congrats and hang in there. My friends sent those encouraging words because their hearts are aching for their own kids that have flown the coop. They miss their kids. They miss their babies. It’s quite beautiful. I’m happy for Will and like anytime I am physically away from a loved one, I’m happy because I’m lucky to have someone to miss.
To all the moms and dads out there that sent kids off to college or became empty nesters, cheers to you for guiding your children, teaching them, nurturing them and letting them go. It hurts so good, right? The moment is now and the future is of course always next. ‘What is next’ is one of the most exciting concepts to think about. Like, will the batter hit into a double play or rope a triple down the right field line? Will I make those next two stoplights? Will we win that new business? Will my son enjoy college and graduate? Will my son ever call me? Laugh.
We all have a ton of power to affect what is next. And we all have the power to handle whatever is thrown at us. Our kiddos are gonna learn life rapidly now that they are living on their own. Its wild and exciting. I’m proud of my sons. I am humbled by them. I get to smother one more kid for the next two years and then my nest will be empty. But my heart will always be full.