Sam Cook: Parents confront feelings of loss as children move to collegeWe crossed paths in the dark of a late August evening. She was out in her yard with the family’s dog. I was walking to the grocery store.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
We crossed paths in the dark of a late August evening. She was out in her yard with the family’s dog. I was walking to the grocery store.
We are neighbors and casual friends. Her oldest son is leaving for college soon, and I knew she was having some mixed emotions about that, as every parent does. I asked how the build-up to departure day was going.
“He’s making it easier for me to say goodbye,” she said at first. “Is that his job?”
I didn’t offer an opinion on that, but I have some limited experience in that area, having been an off-to-college kid at one point and having been the parent of two others.
Eighteen-year-olds, heady with the prospect of moving away to new horizons, can be a little challenging to live with at times. As a parent, you know you’re going to miss them badly, but you also think maybe it will be all right to have them rooming with someone else for a while.
Kids heading off to college are pretty sure they have all the answers. They just don’t realize they haven’t been asked all the questions yet.
The night was warm. Under the soft glow of her porch light, my friend kept talking about this whole off-to-college experience. Beneath her initial reaction, a lot of other emotions came welling up. She and her husband are wonderful people and parents. Having one of their two kids light out for new territory is going to leave a temporary hole in their lives, and they know it.
The woman said the other day she watched her older son, full of anticipation, gathering the things he would take with him to college. Caught in a rip tide of feelings, she was happy for her son but found herself overcome with sadness.
Not one to hold back her feelings, she blurted out that she knew he was excited and happy, but that all of this was pretty hard on her.
“And then I burst out crying,” she said.
She said her son came over to her right away, wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.
“He wouldn’t let me go,” she said. “I think if he had let go and looked at me, he might have …”
We all know what might have happened next. So, he kept on hugging her.
“Finally, he let me go and walked off quickly down the hall,” she said.
Moments like that are unfolding, unseen by the outside world, in homes across Duluth and Minnesota and the whole country. College-bound kids are packing up. Parents and brothers and sisters are trying to
figure out what life will be like with a son or daughter or sibling suddenly out of the mix.
One day, they’ll all make the big drive to college. In the mild chaos that always accompanies move-in day, parents will say their good-byes.
Then they’ll try to hustle to the car before it becomes obvious what a big deal this is.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/samcookoutdoors.