On August 21, 2014 I wrote the following letter to Zach as he was getting ready to step out of our house and into a new way of life for him. In five days, we’ll be sitting in the stands of Cameron Hall, the basketball arena, watching as he walks across the stage to get his diploma in Civil and Environmental Engineering. It’s the same arena where we sat almost four years ago when he signed the matriculation book and joined his Brother Rats on the beginning of their journey at VMI. Five days and then he’s a grown up. Enjoy my trip down memory lane…
My dear Sweet Man-Child,
The time is almost here. The time I’ve been dreading but knew was coming is almost here. Tomorrow we pack up the car and head west…to the next chapter in your life. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed bringing us to this day. I think I blinked one too many times. The experienced moms who approached me when you were a newborn, telling me not to blink and that time would fly by, were right. They knew what I know now. Time passes too quickly when raising your kiddos.
As we all prepare to spend our last night together at home I want to share some things with you.
The first one is ~ sometimes I wish you were a first class jerk. No I don’t really. I don’t wish that at all. Well, maybe I wished it for a minute, because sometimes I wonder if it would make it easier to take you to school and drop you off. Would I be relieved to see you somewhere other than our house if you were a jerk? Would I be happy to see you and your belongings packed up in the back of the car if I didn’t like you so much? I’m happy I won’t ever know the answers to those questions.
Next, I want you to know how extremely proud I am of you. You are you. And you are one stellar young man. Not every kid could take on the challenge you asked for and accepted by applying to VMI. It’s no ordinary college. You will thrive in that environment. Accepting the challenges they throw at you will not be easy. You know it won’t, but you will rise to the challenge and you will go far. I believe that with all of my heart.
A third thing I want you to know is how thrilled I am with the example you set for your brother and sister to follow. You took the role of big brother to heart and set the bar high. There is nothing Lucas and Claire can’t achieve because of your example. I know that is a tremendous amount of responsibility, and I can’t thank you enough for not only shouldering the responsibility but making sure to set a wonderful example.
I want you to know, too, that I know these days, weeks and months ahead are going to be brutal for you. I know it’s going to challenge you to your very core. I can’t begin to imagine what must be going through your mind right now. Nor can imagine what you’ll be going through during hell week and the ratline. I’ve told you time and time again that I think you’re a stellar young man. That is truer now than ever, in my mind. But I know VMI is going to take you and make you a stellar leader in this life of yours. You will go far in this world with the lessons that will be drummed into you in the next four years. You will survive and you will thrive. I know you will. I believe in you.
One final thing I want you to know, Zach. I know you could never be a jerk, even though I wished it above, for just a minute. You don’t have the ability to be a jerk, even though right now, right this minute I wish you were. I truly think it would make it easier to send you on your way. But I’ll tell you the God’s-honest truth. I’m so glad you’re not a jerk. I’m so glad the tears will fall. It means I’m proud of you. It means we’ve all done a great job in this family of ours. It means I know you can do whatever you want to do in life. And it means I love you.
So Saturday, when we’re moving you into barracks, watching you sign the matriculation book and sending you off on your new adventure, I’ll keep repeating to myself, “I’m happier for him than I’m sad for myself,” over and over and over again. I know the tears will fall but my heart will be bursting with pride.