Beautifully Sad

College drop off one is in the books. How was it? Beautifully sad. After the final hugs, we finally boarded the airport shuttle bus. Eighteen made it especially tough because she wouldn’t walk away. She just waited and watched, never budging. I guess I should have known that was coming, but Fifteen had to inform me that Eighteen’s always stood frozen in time watching whatever conveyances take her loved ones away. Points off for not knowing that.

I was surprised by the GalPal’s relative calmness. Later she informed me she’d been crying quite a bit in private over the last few weeks. Her spirituality made all the difference. Her epiphany? Ultimately, Eighteen belongs to God. We’ve just been taking care of her the last eighteen years. She’s also convinced the distance will prove instrumental in Eighteen assuming adult responsibilities.

Lots of thoughts were swirling around in my head on the shuttle bus ride to the airport. The overarching one was how beautifully sad the separation was. I suppose some parents are glad when their young adult children finally leave the nest. That, in my mind, would be sad sad.

It was a reminder that in life whenever we choose intimacy (by partnering with someone for long stretches of life or by choosing to reproduce), we inevitably increase the risk of painful separation brought about by human fallibility and/or the natural passage of time.

Another thought was how nice it was that I didn’t have to give the final pep talk I had tentatively planned titled, “Work Even Harder, Honor your Grandparents, Don’t Eat Too Many Chocolate Cocoa Puffs, and Be Sure to Get Enough Sleep” because we spent four days together, days marked by dinners out where I told a few college and life parables that communicated everything I had wanted to. I know her well, she listened carefully, I felt no need to elaborate.

The weirdest thing about the four days was how comfortable Eighteen was in her own skin, even when surrounded by her sometimes annoying sister, mother, (and always) annoying father. Day four, after moving in to her dorm room, I suggested she go to the dorm’s dining hall for lunch and “meet us back here” by the student store cafe. “No, I’d rather eat with you guys.” It wasn’t the decision of a shy, anxious, introverted first year, but that of a young woman who appreciates her family and wanted to enjoy our visit to the very end. Despite the antics of her perpetually silly family, there was never a hint of embarrassment, just a mix of fondness and gratitude.

A silver lining of the trip was the thoughtful way Fifteen seemed to process a visit to a neighboring college, her dad’s dinnertime parables, and her sister’s first day of college orientation. She’s always done well in school, but now I think she’s even more motivated to do her best.

The first five-six days at home have been different, but nice. Last week I bought a smaller piece of halibut, only half a gallon of chocolate milk, and the GalPal and I have had enjoyed more time alone.

And the inevitable, natural passing of time marches on.

Left to Right. . . Two College Women and a High Schooler Ponder Their Future

5 thoughts on “Beautifully Sad

  1. Ron, your article made me cry. Other than that, I enjoyed it. Not only do I think you are fortunate to have such wonderful women in your life, but I also think they are very lucky to have YOU.

  2. Nicely written. It was the time marches on part that made me cry. There’s something in these smaller departures from each other that speaks to our own more final one (unless you count eternity) down the road. You’re right, when you’re sad to leave each other, it says something good about what you have.

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