Growing Up: We Knew This Day Was Coming And Just Like That She Was Gone

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We knew this day was coming. Our daughter had been growing up. It had been a senior year of last games and concerts, last conferences, and awards nights. But, it happened just like the car commercial. A little girl is sitting behind the wheel of a car as her dad asks if her mirrors are adjusted and reminds her to put on her seat belt. The little girl is about five years old and seems antsy to go. They cut to the dad holding the keys out, and instead of a little girl behind the wheel, a young woman is leaving for college.

My daughter comes down the stairs toward me: tall, assured, and grown-up.

She is on her way to meet friends, a young adult who manages her own life. As she passes, she says, “I leave for basic training in 5 weeks.” And in that instant, instead of seeing a young adult, I say my shy baby girl with the soft overbite.

My face must have crumpled a bit. It was so sudden. I didn’t even know we were talking about this. And then, she burst into tears, too. “Don’t cry, mom,” she tells me. I can’t help it. I thought we had more time–a summer to spend together. A summer to make those last few mother/daughter memories. I ask her why she is crying, and she says exactly what I was thinking.

More time, a summer of fun after graduating, time with family and friends. A summer of lifeguarding at the lake. A summer to be a kid.

And then it passes. She is over it. She wipes her eyes and pulls on a sweatshirt as she heads off to the Lacrosse game at the high school. I am alone. Alone to tell my dogs how my heart is aching. Aching with both loss and pride. Alone with my dogs, like it will be when she leaves for National Guard basic training, then job training, then college, and then deployment.

Yes, I know. I am jumping ahead four and a half years. It seems like that is a long time. But, if 18 years was not enough time with her, how can four and a half years ever be?

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