Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. – Proverbs 16:31
Over the weekend I watched from my kitchen window as across the street Mike’s son loaded his belongings into a small U-Haul truck backed into the driveway. It didn’t seem possible that the high school cross-country athlete who resided there when we moved in nine years ago was now a college graduate and moving on to begin his life anew, away from the parental nest. It wasn’t that long ago that he was setting out each day to run his miles of training while Mike rode his bike alongside to pace him. And now he’s a grown man, setting sail on the choppy waters of independent adulthood.
Watching this unfold from my kitchen brought to mind something I had read from Homer. When Glaucus met Diomedes on the battlefield before the city of Troy, Diomedes called out to him and demanded to know his lineage before engaging in battle. Before providing it Glaucus began with a beautiful reflection on the passing of generations:
As is the generation of leaves, so to of men: At one time the wind shakes the leaves to the ground but then the flourishing woods gives birth, and the season of spring comes into existence; so it is with the generations of men, which alternately come forth and pass away. (The Illiad, Book Six)
Two things were happening at the time to make this scene across the street especially poignant to me. One, I was (and am) in the midst of a struggle to write something that has hit a very emotional, and still raw, nerve within me. The weekend marked a point in time ten years ago when I lost one of my best friends in this life to a senseless auto accident, and within 48 hours of my having returned from his funeral we lost what would have been our second child to a miscarriage. It was a very black time. A hurting time. An angry time. It took quite awhile for me to get over those losses in July 2002. I struggle to write about it much as one hesitates to pull the bandage from a wound. While scarred over I’m not sure I want to risk picking at an old wound that might bleed anew.
I had also recently began to think of the day when our soon-to-be junior in high school moves out to head to college. I cannot fathom that we’re already halfway through his high school years and that all-too-soon he will be packing boxes and luggage into his car. He’s still undecided as to where he’s going to go and if he follows a popular (and smart route) of saving money by living at home to attend the local community college and/or university it will still be some time before I stand in the driveway as Mike and Patti did, watching him drive away.
One late summer morning when he was four, Nolan put my old college bookbag over his shoulders and set out from our driveway on his Big Wheel as I stood watching while sipping from my coffee mug. After he had taken the sidewalk to our neighbor’s driveway and paused, I called out to him, asking him where he was off to in such a hurry. He turned, looking over his shoulder, and with an enthusiastic wave of his hand yelled back at me “I’m off to school dad. I can’t wait to grow up and go to school.”
It was at that moment it really occured to me for the first time that I was going to have to learn to let go. You always hear about it, and you know it is coming, but I think we are in denial until confronted directly by this reality.
During the hectic summer weeks of getting all three kids to high school and little league baseball, YMCA softball and sleepovers, still adjusting to having a beagle puppy in the house and growing a little tired of the mood swings of a teenager, I had been beginning to look forward to the day he would finally be moving out. After watching Mike and Patti walk quietly back into their now a-little-more-empty house I wasn’t so sure, and felt a little guilty. I’m not ready, even with my increasingly gray crown of hair. Not yet.
Life is moving oh so fast
I think we should take it slow
rest our heads upon the grass
and listen to it grow