Sunday, August 26, 2012

empty nest

Thursday, we dropped our son off at Temple University, for his freshman year of college. It might have been the shortest drop off in history. Prior to going, our son made it clear that he didn't want us hanging around his dorm room, or taking him out once we arrived. At this point in his life, we are a major embarassment to him, despite being perfectly nice people (take my word for it). I really struggled with this, but in the end decided that if that's what it took to make him comfortable in his new digs, so be it.

We arrived on campus a couple of minutes early. Our son actually knew where his dorm was and how to get there. We pulled up to the 15 minute unloading zone, unloaded the car, and I went to park in the visitors lot. I got back to our spot on the curb, made chit chat with other parents for a few minutes. We noted that the freshman girls had all packed enough for 3 dorm rooms, and the boys had packed very little. The woman next to us was dropping her 5th child off, and said it was a universal truth. Boys just don't pack much. Our son had checked in, gotten a cart and ambled down the sidewalk with it by that time. We loaded everything into one bin (with room left over) and made our way up to the 2nd floor. We found his room, took everything out of the bin, hugged goodbye and took the bin back downstairs. We annoyed the boy by waiting until he turned in the bin and got his ID card back before departing. Another hug for each of us and we took off for home. Total time on campus was roughly 20 minutes.

I haven't heard from him since. I know, it's only been 3 days and change, but I was still surprised. No panicked calls about stuff forgotten. No emails or texts. I guess he can manage okay.

As for us empty nesters, we went out for a nice lunch, played a couple of hours of pinball. We've eaten on our own schedule. I have revelled in stupid small things, like being able to walk down the hall to the bathroom in my underwear. I bought groceries and didn't have a separate list of stuff for the boy. I don't have a ton of laundry to do. We had actual leftovers from dinner last night. I can go out on a weeknight and not feel guilty for leaving the kid to forage for himself. I did not get woken up by the sound of size 12 sneakers in the rooms above ours.

And yet. There is a sadness too. I feel like there is something important that is missing. I feel an absence. I think about the kid multiple times a day, and wonder if he is okay. Is he eating? sleeping? has he made some friends? I have checked his dining hall account to make sure he has gotten a few meals. And his paypal account to see if he is running through his cash. I am like a virtual stalker, seeking clues to a life I am now not involved with in any major way.  I hope this is a phase, and I will learn to let it go.

Friday, August 17, 2012

the pain of others

I am dealing with a hard truth these days. Sometimes, the pain of others is harder to bear than your own. When you love someone and you see them suffer, it hurts you. And you are helpless. When you yourself are hurt, you have the activity of dealing with the pain. You contain it, you manage it, you feel it, you deal with it. When someone else is suffering, you are separate from it. Oh, you offer to help. You experience some pain of your own. But you don't reduce their pain, you don't really experience their pain, and in the end, you can't END their pain. And that is just really really hard.