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How (not?) to Say Good-bye to Your Child at College

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

This is IT? I am in the middle of a group of college Freshmen, exotic and new to my eyes as tropical fish. Shiny shirted girls and striped T’d boys. We swim out of this auditorium where we got the parental run down, the last info, and the order to say “good-bye” outside.

The groups of kids already form - flit away from parents like schools of fish darting from a shark.

I am no where near ocean - in Nashville, Tennessee. The town that is stealing my oldest from me like a big bosomed, more fun-than-me aunt. And I can’t compete.

It has been a year on speed dial of knowing he will be gone soon. But still getting caught up in the minutiae. A year of buying the ingredients for meatloaf; and having the sense to stay up with him late into the night watching episodes of River Monsters on Discovery Channel.

And all that excitement?? All those tests, essays, dropping applications at the Fed Ex building to make the deadline, and opening emails, hoping and dreaming. It comes down to THIS?? My son, husband, myself and 1,500 of his new best friends saying good bye on the sidewalk outside the auditorium?

I am hugging him good-bye as his roommate, Matt, from Florida politely stands by. We just met Matt. And yet, Shane is leaning towards him and away from me. It was a sort of side-ways hug, as we moved with the crowd. I suppose my grip got a little too tight. Try to stand up against an ocean wave and hug someone.

I lost him in the crowd, then would catch sight of him on and off. The Freshmen class walked out to the field where the upperclassmen made a hand bridge under which the new class walked through. They cheered them through with a roar and high fives. It was so cool. I started to sob.

This is a terrible mistake - and not the plan at all! I lost his head in the hand tunnel and couldn’t stop crying. Other parents walked by and squeezed my arm.

I was not ready for this. He is a fisherman and a guitar player I wanted to scream to the upperclassmen - Do you have his back?!

He has long fingers that tie flies so small you may vacuum one up thinking it was a piece of fuzz. He moves his hand up and down the neck of a guitar with ease, with certainty. But is he ready to be a Freshmen?

I shouldn’t have spent hours watching River Monsters, I think as I eye the co-ed’s shorty shorts. I should have told him that if his heart breaks, it will mend. That a girl does not want your solutions, she wants your ear and those beautiful fingers wrapped around her hand. I should have said to study ALOT. And that those white no show sox look terrible with dress shoes.

In my dreams, I am a white haired matriarch whose house everyone comes to for every holiday. We hold hands through the “Our Father,” and give a little squeeze before we release.

But really. Here I am in Nashville. A salmon swimming upstream - dropping off her eggs.


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