This last summer began with the trepidation of a two-piece bathing suit. And then August concluded with my personal challenge of letting go. I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing a bit of a shocking trend…letting loose.
We worked up a sweat hauling our daughter’s stuff from our crammed vehicle to her first-ever dorm room, riding the elevator up six floors and then walking down. I think that’s where I left my warm, familiar mantle of motherhood…somewhere along the ups and downs in her dorm building. On the 17-hour drive home, we took a spontaneous detour to see Crater Lake. Standing on the cliff’s edge, we gazed down upon the big lake below that was created from a volcano collapsing its mountain top. Ahhh….something beautiful from a catastrophic natural occurrence. My exposed skin prickled to the icy wind portending the advent of a new season.
Had I prepared my daughter well enough? Did I do enough? Had we spent enough time together? Had I conveyed how incredibly loved she is? Did I inadvertently pass on my confrontation avoidance to her? Will she be alert when walking across the campus alone, in the dark? Will she find friendships that encourage healthy growth? With dynamic motherhood shelved like a well-worn Velveteen Rabbit, the insecurities and fears were exposed and active. Oprah takes a whole season and a worldwide audience to help her remember and celebrate 25 years of her life in television. I leave more than 30 years of mothering—joining a gazillion other empty-nesters—in quiet invisibility. Oh great, did I pass on my resentments to her too?
My last remnant of motherhood was safely miles away in her dorm and far from the epicenter of emotions when the walls of the brewing volcano collapsed inward and a deep crater was left: If I’m no longer a mother, then what IS my value? The tears and drivel spilled out everywhere.
Bing!…a text from our daughter, Thanks for all your help; I love you :)
A Smiley Face… a thousand words of meaning, never offered indiscriminately.
Allowing myself to slip back into maternal musings, I recalled our preschool grandson riding on the shoulders of his big, strong daddy as they strolled along the beach. Grampa and I were walking a couple paces behind them. Grampa couldn’t resist tickling little Ryan’s backside. The game went on for several steps until Ryan announced over his daddy’s head, “That’s enough.” And it has been the no-nonsense recollection of our little grandson that has mellowed my aftershocks.
My friend called as I was writing. We have shared many prayers for our daughters over the years. And she helped me understand my father’s dialysis as her father also had kidney failure. A few years back, I accompanied my friend through ten-weeks of Conversations on Purpose. I was privileged to first hear my fellow stay-at-home mom dream of getting involved in the medical field. “I’d like to help make hurting people more comfortable, and maybe even make them smile.” I thought she was talking about the distant future, but that very week she started volunteering at a local hospital. After several months, she stepped away from her volunteer position to attend to family matters including a son’s wedding, her husband’s back surgery, and the passing of her father. This past year my friend returned to the hospital as their favorite volunteer. As her last child graduated in spring my friend announced that she would be attending community college—her first time on a college campus—to get a nursing assistant credential. “I just accepted a job as a nursing assistant,” my friend shared, “I especially wanted you to know because you were with me when this journey began.” I imagined water as blue as Crater Lake trickle back into my life covering some of those insecurities and fears.