And so without too much ceremony, the “end” that we have been planning for and talking about for the last two years has arrived.
The last of “the last high school (fill in the blank)” for all our children took place this summer. The last BPC IMPACT Back Home Concert, the last high school graduation, the last high school performance, the last high school youth conference – you get the picture! It all really started to hit me last week when Catherine sang in church for the last time before heading off to college.
The parenthood thing has been an amazing journey and in a few days, we officially close the books on the high school years. The next chapter has yet to be written, but for nearly half my life, I’ve played what I believe has been the single most important role of my entire life – being a father. It is the role that I have so enjoyed and so loved (most of the time). Almost nothing compares to holding the title of dad, father, Johnny, Pops.
I know that doesn’t change this week but we begin to cross the bridge that changes the relationship between a child and the father or parent forever. I liked this role and I loved this time of my life. And don’t misunderstand what I am saying – I may feel this ominous change ahead, but it is indeed balanced by feelings of happiness, pride, excitement, and optimism for the future. But I guess at the same time, I guess I am experiencing a small dose of grieving.
With one foot firmly planted on and comfortably set in the sands of being the parent of a teenager, its time to cross the bridge. I’m just not sure I am ready. Of course, this is not foreign territory. Yet there is something so very unfamiliar, and even a little uncomfortable about it, that it is unsettling. I suspect I am missing the comfort that comes from the fact that even though the other two were older, I always had that other foot firmly planted as the father of a high school student. But, without that, it’s all new again.
I’ve thought about this and tried to plan for it in my mind. But nothing can prepare you for the intense impending change that is about to occur. I take comfort in knowing that we are not alone and many of our friends are right there with us. And countless others have been here before as well. Nevertheless, as we cross another “last____” for the summer, I realize that it is truly the last of the lasts.
Grief can come from any type of separation, ending or change in our lives. And as I walk across the bridge, I know deep down inside, despite my excitement, I should not bury the grief. Sending off the last kid to college means the end of my experience of being the kind of dad I have been for the past 25 years. After today, I have to realize that my children are becoming independent and do not need me in the same way as they had before. I know that is what is supposed to happen.
I never thought that launching the kids would be so difficult. And, despite preparing for all the lasts this summer, putting Catherine’s belongings into the car and driving her to NYC always was “at the end of the summer.” The end of summer is here. And now, as Susan and I launch her, we will drop her off at college, and wave goodbye.
With that simple, unceremonious act, it will end. We will move on to a new chapter. But it will be important to allow us to grief as well. Twenty-five years is a long time to hold the position of mom or dad, and with that final wave, it seems like “Dad, Inc.” is closing up shop.
I know I will eventually be relieved and excited; however, today I can’t help but feel a bit hollow.