A wise man hears one word and understands two.
She's leaving for college in just a few weeks and we've made all the preparations. Went to the dentist and had her teeth cleaned. Bought contacts. Checked off lists of things to take. Cleaned out her closet. Purchased tickets so she could come home at Thanksgiving.
And all the while, I mentally prepared a separate list: a calculated rearrangement of the furniture and trinkets crowding her bedroom to create a new space. A study. A place to call my own.
A place where I can spread out. Room for everything. A file cabinet for my files. A bookshelf for my books. After years of squeezing in here and there, of sharing space with our son's disks labeled X-Wing Fighter and my husband's marked Orthopedic Review, I'm dreaming of a desk all to myself. I want my own space.
Everything seemed to be going along as planned -- until today. Just before she left for work, we had a confrontation. Our voices were raised; our emotions ran deep.
"I can't believe you want to pack all my things into boxes and store them in the basement. This is still my home. I live here. I'm just going away to college."
"Honey," I reasoned, "you'll only be here for holidays." "And all summer!" She tossed her head and I caught a look in her eye.
A look that said, "I'm really excited about this, but I'm scared too. I want to leave and grow up, but don't you want to beg me to stay?"
She was asking me to reassure her that I would be here if she needed me.
Last night she curled up next to me on the couch. "Scratch my head," she purred. "Now my back. You won't get to do this much." Her declarations of independence tinged with sorrow puzzled me.
But maybe I'm beginning to hear what she's saying. She's asking for reassurance that life won't be quite as special once she's gone. She needs a place to come back to -- just in case.
And now, maybe I need to acknowledge that her departure is ripping a hole in my heart. I haven't allowed myself to think what I will do without her. I tried to make this about her. But I allow this for her. I hurt.
When I look at her, I glimpse the child she was. I can feel the press of her tiny fingers as they wrapped around mine a moment after her birth.
I can smell her fresh new baby skin and feel her fuzzy head against my cheek. I can all but hear her toddler's plea of, "Mom-mom, hold me-me."
Perhaps she needs to be sure that no one could ever take her place and that I'll miss her more than she'll ever know.
Maybe she wants to see me ache -- just a little -- and to know I mourn losing her. instead of being eager to turn her room into a study.
Perhaps she longs for me to melt into a puddle of tears. To exhibit the hurt that tells her she is irreplaceable. Maybe she's right. Maybe I need to do that for her...and me.
Instead of putting up this brave front -- this shield of reorganization and continuance of life -- I need to allow the pain of parting to sweep over me. To taste the grief. To acknowledge that our family is changing and will never be the same...
To accept the young woman replacing my little girl. To admit that, while I'm very proud of her, I yearn for the days when she needed me in so many ways.
Maybe she knows that in the coming months it will be better for me to have access to her old familiar bedroom. Maybe she recognizes my need to grab her favorite stuffed polar bear, bury my face in its soft fur and cry because my baby grew up too fast.
Maybe she understands that if I pack away all her knickknacks and keepsakes, my fingers will have nothing to grasp when my arms ache to hold her.
Maybe... just maybe... she knows I'm not ready for a study yet and losing her is harder than I want to admit. And that the only space needing to be rearranged is the empty one in my heart.
Susan M. Cameron
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters
"Love in so many ways, spells I hurt..."
Have a great day!