That's why there's an unexpected sharpness today, a lonely sharpness. I knew it was coming but I'm always easily surprised. My children are grown and gone. One moved about 8 hours away, one moved about 48 hours away. And yes, they will be back: Thanksgiving, surely Christmas, probably next summer, I don't know.
That's the thing: I don't know.
For the past week I've been talking with myself about this but I haven't much been listening to my logic. I knew it was coming. My daughter has already had two years of university six hours away. This isn't really new. Yet the difference this time seems to be that both of them are gone. And that's what I don't know: as a parent, who am I and how do I cope if both of them go?
I don't have a choice. I have to let go. But that also means I can't protect them. I can't be in charge. I can't see their faces in the morning and at night and I remember in the early years, that was the best part. I can't read Harry Potter aloud at bedtime anymore. I can't sing We Three Kings every night. And I can't make burritos, one without onions, one with everything, both with avocado and just sit and listen and laugh and nag and argue and question and challenge and debate and laugh and just look at them and just enjoy family life every day because that was the routine for so long and I barely remember a time without that routine.
That's the other thing: I don't know the new routine.
Wow that sounds old and anal. But honestly, my wife and I have built this sturdy structure, a sort-of scaffolding and now construction isn't complete but we've certainly finished this phase. And I know this is just all my stupid selfish tender heart because I'm also equally excited for them to find their own paths. My own path led to much happiness: marriage, children, career. They've earned this. I want this for them.
Yet I don't quite know my own path now.
Friends help. They remind me of the times I couldn't wait for my teens to grow up and get lives and at times, stop being assholes. I'm also told these relationships will evolve in deeper ways. I hope so. But will that happen for sure? I don't know.
Here's what I do know though: they don't need me to pine for them. They need me to be what I've always tried to be: Dad. So, just like from the very beginning of my life with them, that's what I will figure out how to do and how to be and who to be in all the ways they need me to be.