Eric's Mom


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?”

Him:  “Yes”

Me (early the next morning):  “Are you awake yet?”

Him:  “Yes”

… 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.


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of, a bestselling author and an international speaker. A frequent radio and television guest, Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and communications. Visit Lisa at or on social media @LisaHendey for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish, school or organization. Find Lisa’s books on her Amazon author page.


  1. Francine Young on

    Since moving to Salinas, I have found the peace of the beaches in Monterey and Pacific Grove to be a most awesome and inspiring therapy. You both have raised fine young men–and both will continue to make you proud. Celebrate a job well done Mama!
    Go with God and enjoy the many blessings still to come! 🙂

  2. My oldest is starting kingergarten this year, and since we are homeschooling I doubt there will be any tears. However, I had to get a Kleenex before I could finish your post! God bless you and your family during this new phase of your life.

  3. Lisa, we talked about this in Boston, I told you I dread this day as much as you.You have my prayers for Eric, and those he leaves at home.
    You are holding up so well, I am so proud of you as you do one of a Mom’s hardest jobs, stand by as your well-adjusted young man tests his wings.

  4. Don’t worry, he will do just fine.

    When my parents took me to college they barely slowed the car down and shoved me out. The only time I ever saw them was when I came home from college for a holiday. 🙂

  5. Lisa, I think we are the same person! I could have written this word for word…well, not the Harvard part! It gets easier. I’m entering into my third year of our oldest going back to school and it gets more exciting to see how much he’s retained of what we’ve tried to teach him and to see him become his own man while actually relying on those values. I find that I still ask if he has toothpaste…just less often! Each day I pray to the saint he chose as his confirmation saint to intercede for him and guide him… and we make sure he calls home at least once a week!

  6. aw. you’re a mushy rock. you know you are 🙂 Think about how fun the holidays are going to be now (and let’s hope he remembers how to clean a toilet at home)

    prayers for you, me, and all moms and dads learning to let go and enter a new phase of our relationships with adult children.

    If you see the Presidio, say a little prayer for the piece of my heart that resides there 🙂

  7. Wow. As a “new” mom with a 10-month-old and 2-year-old, it feels like they will be this little age forever. It is a nice perspective to remember that no, God willing, they will leave the nest in 16-18 years.

    As someone who was in college sort-of recently, I pray that your son finds a good, moral and holy crowd early on. Hopefully Harvard has a good Newman Center! When I was in college, my mom’s occasional gentle questions over the phone on Sundays, “Did you go to mass today?” and encouragement to join activities at church, went a long way.

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