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Hello, Goodbye

Hello, Goodbye

It seemed our life as parents had just begun when we packed our son off to college
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"Don't give up. I need your best effort. Now!" my doctor said.

The nurse leaned close. "Robin, listen." She motioned with her head.

"Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war …" the hymn thrummed, timely, from the radio. My husband pushed from behind. I gathered my strength and breath and fought for my firstborn's entry into the world.

"A boy!" The nurse placed him in my arms.

This is the first goodbye. You'll never be as close again.

What kind of thought is that to have when a couple, childless for a dozen years, becomes a family? I thrust his adulthood at least 18 years into the future and asked my husband, "What do you think—David or Daniel?" We studied the tiny, pinched-red face.

"David. He looks like a David."

Changes ensued. When I'd been pregnant and carried nothing but a handbag, crowds parted for me like the Red Sea for Moses. Men bounded to open doors wide. But once David filled my arms, I could juggle the baby carrier, stroller, diaper bag, purse, guitar, three bags of groceries and a couple of pacifiers without a soul offering assistance. Our house bulged with crib, rocker-recliner, changing table, wind-up swing, and portable playpen. We stepped over diaper bag, bounce seat, car seat, packages of diapers and the dog lounging in the Kanga-Rocka-Roo.

I rocked David, and he rocked my world.

"Hush, little baby, don't say a word …" I tried to sing him to sleep. But every time, David lit up like a jukebox with a new quarter in it. I picked up the latest of at least a dozen parenting books I'd bought. None of them said a mother might memorize every centimeter of her child's face—and never tire of counting fingers and toes.

I forgot what quiet sounded like once David could talk and walk. He pulled out pots and pans and drummed on them, breaking my wooden spoons. He recited stories from the car seat. In the pet section of the Ben Franklin store he hollered, "Da birdies are praising God." He joined them, volume at forte, singing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." I found that two minutes of silence meant I'd better check on him. He was either asleep or up to something—buttering my cupboard doors or disappearing under a clothing rack at the mall.

At three David prayed God would give him a brother he could name Hunca Munca. At four he got one named Brian. At seven, the day he was baptized, David led his little brother to ask Jesus into his heart. I tucked these things in my heart, to keep forever.

When David turned eight my mother, a retired drummer, gave him her drum set. No more boxes or pots—now he made up random rhythms on the real thing. As soon as David headed for the basement, the dog (and my more tranquil Brian) made for our bedroom, the only peaceful spot in the house. Drumming held more attraction for our son than the sandbox, playing fetch with Buddy, or football with the neighbors.

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Displaying 1–3 of 24 comments

TLC Nielsen

June 07, 2013  8:57pm

Great article!My last one's about to head off to college and your article helped me grasp the change in store. You're right, God has our kids covered and knows the plans he has for each one of us.

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January 03, 2013  12:31pm

Thank you for the article. My only son recently left in anger. Although he didn't go far (to my parents home about an hour away) I have been an emotional disaster for 3 months. This article summed up a lot of what I was and still am feeling. I feel as if I have lost an arm...something that defined love for me for the last 20 years is no longer yelling "MAA", laughing with his friends or giving me the random hug. Although he is now speaking nicely to us, my husband and I are not even 40 and are empty nesters....the home, the dog, the nice things we bought for the pleasure of my son are all still here, minus one son. I am slowly recovering and thank God that my son is now writing his story of life. I also lie awake at night holding back hot tears which find their way out ofmy eyes and a pain that only a mom can understand. I also thank God for a husband who has been patient and loving and a family who assures me that everything will be ok one day. It is a very painful experience.

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August 17, 2012  4:00pm

What a beautiful essay. I'm late in the motherhood game too - I'm 43 and my son is a wee six months old - and it deepens my gratitude (which is already incomprehensible) to read this. Thank you for the long view. I will try to hold on to every day even as it zips past me.

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