Last week my son and I had a few relaxing times together as we ran errands at a slower pace, getting him ready for his return to college in Wisconsin this week.
We got his medications for this semester from the pharmacy on the nearby Navy base. We got him a haircut at the shopping center right across from our subdivision. We enjoyed one last sweet and sour chicken, not at that shopping center, but at another one where the Chinese food will forever be judged inferior to our “home place.”
This week will be like riding a rollercoaster on steroids. We will have so many things to do before our flight on Thursday that I had better not waver for one instant, forget anything, nor get anything out of order. This week, in other words, will be pretty much all stress, no pleasure. I wish I could assess it differently, but 56 years of life, 25 years of marriage, and 22 years as a mother have taught me that I am responsible for pretty much 85% of the moving parts in our home and if I let my thinking shut down at times like this, I will instantly fall behind on things that *must* be done before that Thursday flight.
So it is that autumn is a paradox. While spring signaled new life in an agrarian society, autumn grew to signal a new schoolyear (school used to start at or right after harvest time, so the youths would no longer be needed in the family fields until spring).
See how that works? As the year is ending, as the light is dying, a brisk new semester of study sets in. And, amazingly, it even did that before the invention of electric lights.
So death is overcome by life, just in a different form.
And my son will gladly go back with me to be reunited with his friends at his special needs college in a northern state with very little light at all in winter.
I will miss him. I will miss his presence, his essence, when I go to that base pharmacy or when I pass that hair cuttery. I will think of him with a smile every time I eat sweet and sour chicken at our home place.
At the same time, there is a Rubicon that every parent seems to pass with every child at the end of the summer. You have talked to him and conveyed whatever wisdom you feel you can convey, you have held him responsible for chores in the home, you have done the summer projects. And now . . .
Now you sense him pulling away. He doesn’t mean to be elsewhere mentally, but he is. And he isn’t pulling his weight anymore at home. Despite the fact that he wipes up the kitchen once a day, which is such an improvement over the times when he was young, he is still leaving crumbs on the counters at least three other times a day.
Despite the fact that he has learned to put all of his computer games and all of his DVD’s and all of his books together, neatly arranged in one location, that isn’t happening anymore. He is distracted by thinking about which ones to pack.
His rhythm is off, too, just like yours.
And it won’t be back on track until he is cozily ensconced in his dorm again.
And until you are back home.
Alone in your kitchen again at noon.