Talk amongst yourselves. I’m feeling a little verklempt.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
~ by Donna J. Tuttle on August 10, 2010.