I’m trying to adjust to the feeling of one quarter of my heart living three thousand miles away from the rest of my body. On Thursday morning, Greg and I waved goodbye to Eric outside the security gate at the airport in San Francisco. Guitar in hand and armed with a subway card and smile, he turned and headed to catch his plane to Boston. I waited for a backwards glance, and not receiving one crumbled into the arms of my husband in a pile of the sobs I’d been holding back all morning. The fact that this young man who never knew a day of “separation anxiety” in his life moved so confidently into his destiny truly didn’t surprise me.
What I’d forgotten in my own lead up to this moment were the emotions of that man – the husband and father – my partner for the past nineteen years in this amazing project called “Being Eric’s parent”. The chief lego builder, action figure player, and plastic sword swashbuckler who’d chosen his medical specialty and practice setting around his ability to devote more time to his family. No surgery subspecialty or private practice for this dad, who wanted more than anything to “be there” for his sons. In my own introspection, I’d expected him to be there for me to pick up the pieces as he always does. But in typical Lisa fashion, I’d forgotten that Greg would have his own “pieces” too…
So we stood and held one another in that moment, then went and had a strong cup of airport coffee while we waited for news that Eric’s plane had departed. Then we drove the three hours home to Fresno, me sleeping and Greg, rock steady as he always is, manning the wheel.
The great irony of that goodbye scene is that it’s only the start. Eric is at Harvard this week, participating in a pre-orientation at Harvard as a part of the “Dorm Crew”. The kid who never in his life cleaned a toilet will be spending a few days dealing with other people’s grunge as he and his fellow crew-mates ready the Harvard dorms for their fellow students.
For the past few days, I’ve received a few furtive texts in response to my motherly queries to verify that he’s still alive.
Him: “I’ve landed”
Me: “Are at the dorm yet? Do you have your keys? Are you checked in?”
Me (early the next morning): “Are you awake yet?”
… A man of few words, like his dad. Something’s telling me to give him his space right now, so I’m fighting back my compulsion to text every half hour, to make sure he’s brushed his teeth, and to harp on the fact that I know he’s not getting enough sleep (this surmised from a late night Facebook update). His wings have been developing for the past few years, but now it’s time for them to spread and soar fully. He’s ready, and even though I may not be, it’s my job to enjoy the view and to keep up the prayers.
Next week, we’ll repeat the goodbye. Greg and I will leave Tuesday to fly out and move Eric into his dorm at Harvard. There will be trips to Target for dorm essentials, tours of campus from his now-knowledgeable perspective, dinner with his roommate’s parents, and yet another goodbye. I’ve scheduled a “nervous breakdown” for the 27th through the 29th – Greg and I will spend those days in Monterey at a retreat for his hospital. Adam will be safe at home with Grandma, luxuriating in his new “only child” status, and likely missing his big brother in his own way.
My friends have been amazing during the past few days. They know me as the mom who cried on the first day of school every year since Kindergarten, the mom who hates the absence of her boys, and the one who would have gladly welcomed ten more kids but has done her best to treasure the two God blessed her with. They have called me, prayed with me, and tried to distract me. Along with Greg and Adam and my family, they will be here for me to help me figure out this new form of reality and to embrace it fully.
I miss Eric, but I can’t wait to learn about what being “Eric’s mom” means for our future.