Talk amongst yourselves. I’m feeling a little verklempt.

Nathan and me - photo by Catherine Dominguez

“While they were in there, I told them to go ahead and yank out those tear ducts. Wasn’t using them.”

~ Sue Sylvester, GLEE

I’m not a crier.

It’s not that I’m not empathetic or sympathetic or that I think crying is a bad thing. (You big baby.)

It just doesn’t happen very often for me.

The reason, in part, is that as the mother of four children, the wife of a wonderful husband and the daughter of two amazing parents — I live a life that is, by luck only, fabulously fulfilling and happy. And I have good friends who have endured the ravages of cancer, the heartbreak of losing a child, and the bitterness of adultery — so, honestly, I don’t believe I have earned the right to cry that much.

So imagine my surprise last night when it got “a little dusty in the room.”

It was the end of the night, and my 7-year-old daughter was tired. And she laid her head on the shoulder of her oldest brother, Nathan, who is 18 and leaving for college on Friday.  And she began bawling. “I don’t want you to go to college. Who will I listen to rock n’ roll music with?” she wailed.

I watched as they clung to each other. That big, 6-foot-1 handsome young man with the broad shoulders and that tiny rumpled, blond ball of sweetness.

And after I wiped away their tears and shuffled everyone off to bed, I laid my head on my pillow.

And wept.

Big fat tears of absolute sadness — the kind that left a hole in my heart.

Because I remember exactly how I felt that night of Friday, Dec. 13th, 1991, when the nurses finally placed that soft bundle into my arms, and I met Nathan, whose name means “Gift of God.”

Nathan, age 3, standing behind his brother Aaron in 1994

Suddenly, the deadlines at the newspaper seemed strangely not so urgent. I reveled in the angelic baby softness, soaked up the smiles and coos and understood for the first time how much *my* parents loved me.

I laughed when Nathan started lining up toy figurines on the kitchen floor with brain surgeon precision. I chuckled as his dad glided Nathan’s chubby cheeks through the air in slow motion, declaring him a giant baby in the Macy’s Day Parade.

There was the time — at age 2 — when Nathan thought the name of our golden retriever, Boerne, was “Goodgoodgirl.” And I got a kick out of Nathan calling milk “Ten” because that’s the number we entered into the microwave to warm it up. And the time the teacher asked shy Nathan what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he declared firmly: A lion tamer.

Like most first-time moms, I made my mistakes on Nathan. Like the day I tied the dog’s leash to the stroller and she took off until he toppled over into a ditch in New Paltz, N.Y.. (I’m blonde, what can I say.) Or the time I thought I’d ease his cold with a few drops of peppermint in the bath and quickly learned that essential oils with burning sensations are not soothing **everywhere ** Or the morning I kept driving when he said his tummy was sick, but forgotten he had just eaten GREEN eggs and ham at school for Dr. Seuss week.

Nathan's figurines lined up on the kitchen floor in 1993.

Mostly, though, I’ve marveled at how this once-quiet boy has grown into a remarkable, confident young man. Sure Nathan has had wonderful academic and extracurricular accomplishments, but that is not what makes me most proud.

What makes me swell with pride are the handful of times he’s refused to join the crowd because he disagreed with the action and believed strongly in sticking to his guns. That takes a lot of guts at an all-boys school.

What makes me most proud are the times he’s handed over his hard-earned dollars to the homeless who have approached him. Because, regardless of whether you think this is right or wrong, this much is clear: When my son looks into another human being’s eyes and sees hurt, he is filled with compassion.

What makes me most proud is how he earned an internship at the Bexar County Economic Development Department this summer and soaked up every case study and initiative, took out library books on social entrepreneurship and talked about public policy until My. Eyes. Glazed. Over. He found mentors in the staff and found satisfaction in hanging around and picking their brains.

You start out as a parent *wanting* your child to be perfect. You end up *knowing* that what really matters is that they are people of integrity, passion and compassion — the kind of person other people can count on. Grades, popularity, peer pressure, sports achievements, looks, material goods  — well, they’re just the lions our kids tame along the way.

And, so, forgive me if I seem a little weepy.

These tears are sadness for the empty room Nathan will leave behind on Friday and for the joy in knowing he is a good man.

Nathan and Aaron 1995

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~ by Donna J. Tuttle on August 10, 2010.

34 Responses to “Talk amongst yourselves. I’m feeling a little verklempt.”

  1. Wonderful, wonderful! I share tears with you for it was several yrs ago when I waved my first born goodbye. Parenthood is hard but the best job in the world. Their success is our success. That is what my mother told me! Thanks for sharing.

  2. How lovely!

  3. So beautiful… what a lucky young man Nathan is to have such a wonderful, lovely mom! :)

  4. It was a joy to read your post! You are such a gifted writer and have such an amazing talent to be able to so eloquently put on paper (or a computer screen in this case!) what every mother feels for her children. Kudos Donna!

  5. Donna…what a beautiful tribute to you to Nathan and to your wonderful family!! I’m feeling your tears and aches as we send our firstborns away to college…not easy…but everything we have worked so hard for these past 18 years!!! Hope to see you soon! Hugs,Lisa

  6. So sweet. Much love to you as you get ready for his send-off. He is going to have such a great year.

  7. When I line up my figurines you just call me weird. It’s hard being the husband. Great post dear.

  8. DONNA! Over the last few years I have become more of a crier but… While reading this I couldn’t hold it back. I look at you and DT an think ” man, that us how you raise kids”. I can’t help but hear your post as my flash forward to the shortest 17 years from now I can imagine. I get so caught up onthe ” I wish Cason would just talk”. And “oh man get some more teeth”. That it is easy to miss the every moment where the meat of it is. Amazing post…

    • Thank you Katie. It’s hard to slow down and enjoy every moment. And the people I know who stopped for every little thing were probably helicopter parents. I’ve seen you in action — you and Chris are spectacular parents and you will be there for all the important stuff. But more importantly, I hope to see Cason soon!

  9. Wiping away my tears after reading such a heartfelt piece, I am grateful our children have known each other and share the same values and philosophies on life. Having my LAST child to go off to college, and another one marrying in the span of about 1 week, I too am **feeling a little verklempt**! No, I’m feeling ALOT verklempt!! But just as you are a proud parent, I also feel the pride that my children are wonderful human beings, compassionate and true to themselves. I know they are both embarking on new adventures and I am confident that whatever path their journey takes, they will be successful, just as Nathan will be. You’re a great mom!!

  10. When our son, Steven, went to Trinity and Judy took him to his dorm room and then walked home she seemed inconsolable and Steven was exactly three blocks away! I guess it isn’t about distance from home! :-)

  11. Forgive me, my dear, but I am a crier. And my tears have not just swelled – but have fallen in great number as I read this. What a beautiful tribute to your son. I hope he has the most amazing journey through college and the start of grown-up life. Special hugs to you, my friend.

  12. GREAT post, I laughed and I cried:)

  13. My kids are 1, 3 and 5 years old…and I’m not a crier either. But danggit, you have me all teary.

    Good luck to you all as he starts this new adventure!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, and what a full and wonderful (tired!) life you must lead with those three munchkins. I so loved those ages. We all speak that universal language of motherhood.

  14. A parent’s job is to give their child roots and wings. From what I can tell, you have been quite successful.

  15. Beautifully written piece, Donna. Congrats on a job well done with your children.

  16. Well, I cry all the time and I think I have been crying every day since graduation. What a wonderful piece you have written. Nathan is a great kid and it has been my privedge to know him for a good part of his life. It’s funny, I remember we always use to say, how funny it was when Nathan and Steven were together when they were young – they were like two little old men solving the worlds problems. They had this old soul attitude about things. But, first and foremost they were always kind and friendly and honest and they still are and I too am quite proud. We have a similar story to your 10 story. Steven use to call any body of water, especially our swimming pool, “The No” because we were constantly saying No around watter. Anyway, my computer is wet with my crocodile tears. We need to commisserate soon my friend – since I am feeling pretty verklempt. We wil make it our special little coffee talk.

    • Thank you for the kind words Debbie. Steven and Nathan have always been sympatico — two little old men. And I love The No story. We miss seeing you guys. Prayers and best wishes to Steven as he embarks on his college journey. He is a fine young man and you and Mike are spectacular parents.

  17. How many times have we heard, “cherish these years because they go by so quickly”. Now these words ring so true in our hearts! You have lovingly expressed what we mothers (and I’m sure fathers) feel when our children begin the transition to adulthood. “How ever will they manage without me” I remember repeating over and over through my tears.
    Alas, they do manage quite nicely. Much love and happy tears as you get Nathan settled this week and be confident that you and David have raised a fine young man.

    • Thank you Joan. I need only look at your boys and know that Nathan’s next step will lead to greater things. You are a wonderful mom with really talented, kind children and I so appreciate your friendship.

  18. Are you completely sure I’m not going to be celebrating 5 years from now, because I think I’m kind of looking forward to the day. No, really. That’s an unbelievably touching post. I can only hope my kids can tame those lions as well as yours have. And I can only hope to be half the mother you are. {{hugs}} for the big day tomorrow.

  19. Donna, I am weeping with you. What a beautiful and glorious love letter to your son. He sounds like a kind, generous, smart, compassionate soul, just like his mom. I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to let him go (Heck, I’m struggling enough as it is over sending my first-born to Kindergarten in less than two weeks!) but hopefully you’re comforted by the fact that he’s been prepared for this new journey by the love and guidance he’s received from his wonderful family.

  20. Thank you for sharing this Donna!
    Living at home now my mother has reminded me that she too didn’t need her children to be popular, valedictorians or drop-dead-gorgeous.
    She wanted her children to be happy, self-assured and have the education, courage and integrety to make the world a better place. It sounds like Nathan is on the same life path thanks to you!

  21. Beautiful and very touching.

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