"Are you okay?" Mike paused and turned, his overnight bag in one hand, his computer bag in the other.
I stood in the open doorway and nodded, doing my best to answer honestly. Not so much for his sake, as for my own.
"This is the beginning, isn't it?" I met his eyes and forced a smile I didn't totally feel. Not yet at least.
"It is." He hesitated and I waved him on, knowing that no words would ease me through the next few days. Time - I just needed a little time, and that's what this week would be for. Four days alone to adjust to the fact that in less than a week Mike and I would have The Empty Nest.
I watched as he climbed into the van, where Jorge was already waiting in the passenger seat. I had stood in this same doorway hours earlier, waving to Nate as he backed out of the driveway, headed back to campus to finalize all of the paperwork on his housing for this school year.
The plan was that, since Mike was working this week in the Houston area, that all three of my guys would hang together for a couple of days. After some good male bonding, the boys will head off on their own for a last minute get-away to Galveston. By the time they return on Friday night, only the weekend will remain before they pack and leave for their respective campuses and school year.
My plan was a simple one. Spend the time shopping for the last minute things they'll each need for their apartment and dorm, get their laundry caught up, and - maybe most importantly - spend the time in thought and prayer as I prepare to send my boys out into the world without me.
What has surprised me most this week is that I'm ready for this. As I sat at dinner with three close girlfriends on Monday night, I knew not only that I am prepared, but that the boys are too.
"I've done all that I can do. Now I have to trust that I've taught them well. It's up to them now."
As I heard myself speaking these words, a mighty calm settled over this mother's heart. It was true, and there is serenity in this knowledge. Both Nate and Jorge are equipped to handle whatever Life may bring their way. They will struggle and fight and play and laugh, and then struggle some more. They'll jump the same hurdles and navigate the same mazes we all have to jump and navigate. But they are ready for this.
And so am I.
For the past twenty years I have been someone's mother. Sure, I am wife, daughter, friend, writer, and student. I have numerous hobbies and interests. My life is full and fun.
But the stark truth is that for the past two decades it is the role of MOM that has defined me. It has been my breath when other things in Life has knocked me to my knees. It has been my joy when dark clouds hovered overhead. It has been my strength when I felt weak and imcompetent.
See, motherhood takes no vacations. There are no sick days, no mental health days, no part-time status, and it absolutely accepts NO resignations. And you're never fired from the job, for certain!
For every decision I've made about my own life, I've made three or four for the boys' lives. For every worry I've endured for my own set of circumstances, I've agonized endlessly over my sons' problems. For every dream I've had the courage to dream for myself, I've braved taller mountains and more treacherous valleys to dream the mighty things in Life into being for my boys.
Motherhood is what I do.
And yet - I feel the subtle, soft winds of change begin to wisp through my soul this week and I am so very, very okay with it. The house is quiet around me, most certainly a whispered prelude to the weeks and months and years to come.
But instead of the dreaded stillness that I had envisioned, I only feel tranquility and I have to wonder...is this too a whisper? A soft promise of wonderful things that - even now - lie just on the horizon of all our lives?
On this third day of alone time and speculation, with the boys' stuff piled into two distinct sections downstairs in the dining room, I feel tingles of deep anticipation.
This is not an ending, by any means. It's truly the "beginning," just as I had phrased it earlier in the week to Mike. Same story, just a whole new chapter. A new adventurous chapter for them, and a delicious new chapter for us.
I feel certain there is happy reading ahead for all us.
Nate's stuff - Move date: Monday, August 13th - Second year SAM!
Jorge's stuff: Move date - Wednesday, August 15th - FRESHMAN!