The five of us huddled around my laptop on the kitchen counter, every now and again glancing at the forward movement of the clock. A video of the boys’ last hunting trip played across the screen. I don’t think any of us cared about about the video. We just sat together, quietly. None of us wanted the time to end. But yet, the clock ticked and ticked and ticked off minutes and our three blissful weeks of being together as a whole family came screeching to an end.
Zach sat like a prisoner ready to head to the executioner. He knew it was time to head back to the loveless land of Virginia Military Institute. Lucas and Claire knew the time had come to say their good-byes to their big brother. Stan felt it too. We all enjoyed our time together and it felt like it came crashing to an end with no preparation. We all worked so hard to stay focused on the present and not look toward the inevitable day Zach would leave us.
My throat constricted and my eyes blinked back tears that were coming, unbidden. I promised Zach the day of matriculation in August, the day he became a Rat, I wouldn’t cry. He said it would make it so much harder on him if I cried as he marched away. So I kept my promise on the day he left us for the first time. This time, though, I wasn’t expecting to be overcome with tears. I thought I was now a seasoned pro, a mom who was used to her oldest not being in her nest anymore. I was wrong.
This time was so much harder, because now I know.
I know now that our family life is now, and forever will be, punctuated by a series of Hellos and Goodbyes. We’ll be the Pokeys, sometimes…when Zach comes home for breaks and vacations. But we won’t always be the five of us anymore. Zach will come home, he’ll say, “Hello,” and then sooner than I’ll ever like, he’ll have to go back to wherever he needs to be and we’ll say our goodbyes. It’s a different kind of family life and one I’m not sure I like. Maybe someday I will, but right now I’d love nothing more than to forget about punctuating life with Hellos and Goodbyes.
Hugging Zach goodbye and seeing the love he gave to all of us made things a little easier.
But watching the truck drive away with Zach inside, knowing he was going back to his reality, brought the tears back to my eyes. A piece of my heart rode away inside that truck. Maybe that’s just part of being a mom. And if it is, I’ll take it. I’ll take the love I get, wholeheartedly, from my sweet, man-child and I’ll cherish it.
Right now, I’d like nothing more than to forget the Goodbyes and focus on the Hellos, for the love of my children…