Whenever I leave home for an extended period of time, I come back to things that have died.
My neighbor and life consultant, Kevin, is snipping up the piles of dead plants he’s removed from my yard. Among other things, we’ve been discussing my daughter, who’s off to college next week. It’s a more difficult transition for me than I thought it would be.
Somehow I pictured poignant moments of mother-daughter bonding these last few days, sitting on her bed together, sorting through her clothes and everything else she’ll need for her college dorm experience.
“Mom, I don’t need your help folding and packing my clothes,” my beloved offspring says matter-of-factly. Crestfallen, I dust the cherry bookcases in the living room, which appear to have accumulated a lifetime of dust.
I envisioned cozy trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, skipping down the aisles arm-in-arm, whispering mother daughter secrets, giggling as we collect hip decor for her dorm room.
I imagined a Target shopping spree, my beautiful girl modeling funky collegiate attire while I nod approvingly at her quirky and original sense of style.
Instead, it’s after midnight and we’re fighting about Mama’s Taxi Service not being there for her as much as she would like.
“Mom, I just want to see my friends as much as I can before I leave,” my darling daughter says, tears welling up in her eyes. “This may be the last time I see some of them. You’re always going to be here.”
Okay. I get it. Really, I do. And I guess I ought to feel flattered by her comment, but instead I feel an aching sense of loss. I know everything is as it should be. I’ve done my job. She’s a capable, bright, articulate and grounded young woman. I didn’t do too much to mess that up or stand in her way. She’s on her own road now and nothing will ever be the same.
Motherhood is the epitome of planned obsolescence.
“Loss is the one thing we can’t escape,” Kevin says, jerking me out of my reverie. “From the minute we’re born, it’s all we have to contend with. And at the end–the big one–we even lose ourselves.”
Kevin’s a cheerful Irishman from New Jersey. He’s paraphrasing the words of another wizened soul in the wonderful film, “What About Me?”
So, here I am in the room of my life, watching my daughter as she’s about to walk away into her own life. I’m not afraid of being alone, but the room feels so dim. I can’t see much in any direction, and the floor on which I’m standing has dropped away. My life often seems to be about letting go, and my usual course of action is to build a new floor. I ‘m constantly building new floors, when it might be be wiser to get comfortable with floorlessness.
Then, this morning, my friend Mary Ellen sent me an email out of the blue.
“Sounds like you’re getting ready for some great new beginnings. Don’t forget, they go right alongside endings.”
Is that a little shard of light piercing the inky darkness of this room?