Our son sent his oldest child back to college and his oldest daughter off to Roma for a gap year of study abroad. He still has one child at home but his heart is aching. As his two eldest headed off, he managed, he tells me, not to tear up in front of them.
He also tells me he has come to appreciate how we did the same for him and his sister. "I had no idea," he says, "how hard it is and how hard it must have been for you and dad." I am not violating his privacy when I repeat the following words since he posted this wry take on his Facebook page: "Two of my three kids are leaving in the next few days, starting this morning. If I'd known how hard their leaving was going to be, I never would have encouraged all of this "go to college" business when they were little."
On the morning after his daughter flew off to Rome, he called to let me know she had landed safely, made her way to the appartamento she and two other students had rented, registered at the school where she would be taking classes and bought supplies at a nearby grocery store. Dinner will be ramen and nectarines. The other girls will not arrive for another day or two. My Grand and her parents were texting every step along the way--from airport landing to getting a sim card to figuring out the tricky lock on the appartamento door. She did all this with only 4-weeks worth of Duolingo Italian stuffed into her brain. My son is so proud of her for the confident way she figured things out and so happy that she is embarking on this avventura. But he is heart-heavy. She is now so far away. He misses her.
He wanted to know how we managed to keep the pain of parting from him and his sister. I reminded him that when he left home for college, there was no Internet, no texting, no email. There was only a landline and the mailbox. We couldn't have shared the immediacy of our sadness even if we had been inclined to--which we weren't. Like him today, we did not want to weigh him down with our blues. We only let him see the pleasure we were taking in his launch.
So excuse me while I deliver pats on our own backs. We were able to show our children how to let go gracefully. It wasn't intentional and it may not seem like much. But evidently, it was.
painting: Monet. Bridge at Argenteuil