I don't know exactly why my eyes start to well up. They just do.
It wasn't like I didn't know he was leaving to head back to Pittsburgh this morning. That was the plan - wake up, leave to visit his friend in Harrisburg around noon and then complete the final leg of his trip to Pittsburgh.
He's my son and I wish the last few minutes of our time spent together weren't so cliche, but they were. Our parting scene was a simple father-son exchange: me reinforcing the importance of checking his oil and windshield washer fluid, (two things I barely remember to do myself), and giving him money for tolls. Thankfully, at least for now, no sense of overwhelming emotion associated with his leaving will ever compare to that first time I left him off at his dorm, knowing it was the last time I would see him on a regular basis, but each time there's a departure, a little bit of me is back there on that warm August afternoon.
Today, it was me looking out of my dining room window as I saw him take off in the 2004 Pontiac Grand Am - a gift, thanks to my own father. As he looked over his shoulder to see if there were any cars approaching before pulling away from the curb, I was looking straight out the window, unable to see what really is approaching beyond my own vision, and his.
That's probably why the eyes start to well up - the recognition that, just like 2020, time marches on and we can never really know or predict what awaits us and those we love. The mere presence of living with someone and seeing them on a daily basis gives a false notion that we have some sort of agency over the path that lies ahead. But, we don't. We never did and we never will. Letting go is difficult. Letting be is even harder. I don't know about anyone else but I can't begin to let go until I let be, or accept, life as it is. This will be my work for the rest of my life. There is no other option. Life is simply a series of departures and arrivals.
As he pulled away, it was just a visual reminder of what I intuitively always knew was painful to accept - the hopes, dreams, fears, mistakes, opportunities missed - that are in the past. I am not a perfect parent. The time to course correct is narrower and narrower as my children step more fully into the deep end of adulthood. Once there, they better know how to swim. If they don't, like so many other things, it will be up to them to learn or to ask for help.
As we stood in the frigid cold and both fumbled for the latch to open the hood of the car, I succumbed to the fact that we weren't getting any warmer - literally or figuratively. I said it was time to check the manual. "I'll figure it out, dad", my son insisted. I know he wasn't just talking about the car.
Until next time,