The Summer of 2019… what will we think when we look back upon this time?
With the power of hindsight, we will see the bigger picture. Details will fade except those that writers write about, painters paint about, or singers sing about.
We will talk about it in broad strokes. “We were this then…” people will say, filling the “this” in with whatever broad sweeping generalization seems to fit, even though details could prove otherwise; even though no period is ever one thing. We feel things personally as we feel them, and that real feeling often differs greatly from how we might have thought we’d feel, if we’d ever tried to imagine.
My son graduated high school recently, something I never really imagined, not specifically. I knew it would come one day, and that day drew nearer and nearer as he graduated elementary school and then middle school; as he entered high school and completed the first, then the second, then the third year. We looked at colleges and he applied for some; he even went so far as to choose one, so there was no denying the reality of the impending end, the end of high school for him. For me, it marked the end of his living with me as a child.
I saw other people go through it, heard about their children’s graduations, and watched as their children went off to college. Still, though, the idea was a foreign one. My older son was safely ensconced in his room, surrounded by laundry and gum wrappers and empty cans and bottles of various beverages.
He still is, for the summer, ensconced in that room. And yet with his recent appearance in a cap and gown — smiling beneath that mortar board with the tassle hanging just beyond his long eyelashes — something in me stirred and shifted.
He is not mine to boss around anymore. His decisions will be completely his, and I might never even hear of them, might never be aware. Even if he chooses to share them, or I become aware because they are obvious — he wants to live somewhere, or he chooses to marry someone — I am extraneous.
I do so loathe to be extraneous. I’ve realized that about myself recently, how much I desire to feel part of the lives of people that I care about, especially those I carried in my womb and birthed from my body. And that may indeed be why I feel so alien right now, like an exorcism has been performed and I am somehow not my whole self. A part of me has been severed.
“This isn’t about you…” someone said to me with a sneer when I acknowledged I’ve been kind of a b---- to my son — my 18-year-old high school graduate — lately. I don’t know why, but being afraid I’m losing someone and feeling out of control about it makes me mean sometimes.
I felt sheepish at her admonishment, selfish. Right, I said. It’s about him.
Later, as I was driving, I shook my head. Bulls---, I thought. This is absolutely about me. Of course, his graduating is a big thing for him. But it is ridiculous to imagine that it doesn’t affect me. And I have to deal with that reality, that shift and change. It is a serious transition to send a child you have born and raised and lived with under the same roof for all but a few weeks of camp every year away to live by themselves. And I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for thinking about how it affects me, about how it makes me feel.
I shouldn’t be a b----, though. And I did apologize. I realized that loving someone so fiercely and desperately makes me feel vulnerable and deathly afraid. Sending someone into the oft-brutal world to fend for themselves is f------ scary, and so I feel scared. And when I feel scared I feel out of control. And when I feel out of control… I sometimes act badly. I lash out.
Instead of stopping to say, “I love you so much!” I might say, “how come you’re such a disgusting slob?” I realized, though, that I’d much rather say I love you.
The Summer of 2019, for me, will be The Summer Before My Son Left for College, The Summer I Contemplated the Loss of Everyday Motherhood (even though my younger son is still around for the next two years), The Summer I Felt Something Shift in My Home.
Transitions are hard. We feel them on a personal level when they affect us. What we know can only come from what we really know and feel in our gut, when the things that we might have known was coming and heard about actually comes to absolute undeniable fruition, and we are forced to feel what we feel.