After a few minutes Caleb returned. "Was it hard to say goodbye?" I queried.
"I'm OK," he softly uttered. Now there was one last thing to do. Rising from my lounging position on the couch, I fetched the clippers from the closet. It was time.
With Caleb seated on the bar stools in our great room, I plugged in the electric clippers. We both nervously laughed as the buzzing began. With no guard covering the reciprocating blades, his dark brown hair collected into mounds on the floor. I took pictures throughout the process for posterity's sake. I masked the meaning behind the action by laughing along with Caleb at his changing appearance. At last, I rubbed my hand over his smooth head, kissed his cheek and reminded him of my deep affection for him. "Caleb, I love you."
It's been a long time coming. Caleb's wait to join the Navy is over. By noon today, his room will be empty. Not empty of his possessions; books still overflow his nightstands. The room retains that “lived-in” look. The desk is an electronic depot and the floor a depository for dirty clothes. The covers on the bed are rumbled and three-quarters of the glasses from the kitchen cabinet have taken up residency on the bedside table. But the essence of that room will be gone. He is leaving to pursue his career.
It's different from when he left before. His departure is not the kind that happens when a college kid goes off to study. In that case, they predictably return on Christmas and summer breaks. Not so this time. This child of mine, a young man of twenty-two years and anxious to begin his new life is leaving for good. When he returns, it will be only as a short-term visitor. What remains on his shelves and hanging on the walls are merely remnants of a distant childhood that have come and gone all too quickly.
What happened to those years? How did we get to this point? I have always known that children are raised so they can leave. But when it happens, it catches you off guard. Though always a parent, you realize the years of parenting have come to a screeching halt. Your own flesh and blood has slammed his foot down on the brake, propelling you forward into the post-child rearing years. The whiplash from that process can be oh so painful.
New parents take heed. Embrace the dreary-eyed, sleep-deprived nights. Love the poo. Embrace the puke. Hold his tiny hand. Tickle his tootsies. Sing songs in the night. Look for monsters under the bed. Read him bed-time stories. Go for walks in the park. Dare to be silly. Zoom down the slide. Teach him to ride a bike. Help him with homework. No matter how busy, don’t forget his birthday and reduce him to tears. Take pictures to remember his artwork passionately scribbled onto the wall. Let him see you kiss Daddy. Teach him to manage his pennies. Teach him to work. Teach him to play. Talk about God. Live like you talk. Cherish the good, the bad, the joy, the sadness for surely it will be gone sooner than you realize.
Hold onto each moment for “this too shall pass.”