“Call me if you need me.” How many times have I said these words to someone? How many times have I uttered this phrase when what I really wanted to say was, “I need you to need me,” “I need you to remember I’m here,” “I need to hear your voice.”
I dropped my oldest son off at college last week. That seems so simple. We did so much more than that. I rode in the car alone with him for an hour. The truth of it is, it was pure selfishness on my part. I could’ve ridden in the van with my husband. We could’ve let our son go alone in his car. But I needed those few minutes to have him to myself. We talked, we joked, we listened to music. I think we both get a kick when I know the words to songs he likes. I told him stories about when his Dad and I were in college and I passed along a few words of advice. One of my pearls of wisdom…”Don’t get anyone pregnant.” He just laughed. “Don’t worry, Mom.” When he wasn’t paying attention, I just looked at him. One of his fears was that I would cry all day. I wanted to. But I didn’t.
We made it to the school. Move in day is definitely a process. The volunteers were a God-send. I had a favorite volunteer, but I never got her name. She made me laugh so loud, I almost embarrassed myself. I needed that though. Nothing gets you through the shift of having a child to having an “adult” child quite like a college student asking, “So, are you a freshman this year?”!!!!!
Anyway, we moved him in. I made his bed and unpacked his things. His dad helped him set up the electronic things and gave him advice; we took him and his best friend to lunch–more advice; went to the grocery store—talked about the best way to transport groceries from his parking spot (backpacks can be very handy). Then we took him back to the dorm. I wanted to cry. I didn’t. I think we were all surprised.
We hugged and hugged and hugged some more. “I love you. Call me if you need me.” We left him alone in the dorm. His room is on the first floor. He knocked when we went by the window. I acted like I was going to press my face against it. We all laughed. And I wanted to cry.
On the ride home, I wasn’t as talkative as usual. I think my husband was waiting for the waterworks to start, so he didn’t try to keep up conversation. I think he felt a little sad too. All the way home, I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. Kind of like when you go somewhere and you can’t remember if you turned off the iron or when you go to the grocery and can’t remember if you bought everything you needed.
I dropped my husband off at the high school to watch a game with our other son–the one who will leave for college next fall. I stopped at the gas station. That nagging feeling wouldn’t go away. I drove away and it hit me all at once what I had forgotten. I forgot my baby boy. That one who was born a little early and was so tiny, the socks wouldn’t stay on his feet. That one who was always too smart for his age and always a little dramatic. Who knew how to push my buttons and drive me nuts and then turn around and make me laugh so hard that tears would run down my face. That one who was loving and funny and talented and crazy (well, ok, that’s all three of my children). That one who came into our lives first and seemed so very excited to leave us. He was that feeling of something forgotten. I left my baby alone in a strange room, in a strange city, to fend for himself. I left him to finish growing up. Without me. And even though he’ll be home and it will be wonderful, it won’t ever be exactly the same.
And then I cried.