My oldest son Marc should be boarding his plane soon, heading off to Texas for Air Force boot camp. I talked to him for a bit yesterday, and afterwards broke down into one of the most soul-wretching sobs I have ever had. Why? I mean, Marc’s mom and I have been divorced over half his life. Since moving out here to Seattle I’ve seen both Marc and Jacob at most, once a year. It’s killed me each time I’ve said it, but I should be used to saying goodbye, right?
Wrong. This goes far beyond saying goodbye, see you in a year, talk to you in a week or two. This is saying goodbye knowing that the next time I see him, things will have changed. This is the dreaded leaving the nest. Why does this upset me so? I think it comes down to the simple realization that he really doesn’t “need” me anymore. Marc is now a fully functional, responsible adult. While that makes me very proud on one hand, on the other it makes me incredibly sad.
Though my own mistakes, I’ve missed out on a lot of Marc and Jacob’s growing up. I’ve been there when I could, but I let my feelings of anger for their mom cloud my thinking. Those bad feelings have since healed, but at a terrible cost. There are parts of the boys youth that I will never know. My memories are based on pictures taken by others, and short, awkward weekly talks. Talking to Marc yesterday, trying to pass on last bits of wisdom, just brought all that feeling of loss to a head.
I’ve spoken of this before, the passing of our youth. The “What if”, “If I only”, “Why didn’t I” questions that plague us as we travel through time. The realization that time is not a DVR and there is no going back if you missed something. Those regrets that nag at the psyche like a loose thread and cause even the hardest of men to sob like a baby.
After my minor breakdown last night, I started thinking of these regrets and would I change things if I could. Funny thing happened, and not on the way to the forum. I do have regrets, but when I look at how things turned out, they don’t always seem so hideous. For example, I love my wife, and could not imagine life without her. Had I done things differently, I may never have met her. It’s very dangerous to play the “what if” game without first remembering how things are now. In short, I think it’s okay to have regrets, if you leave them in the past where they belong.
So to close this out, the kid is in for the toughest 2 months of his life. When he comes out of it he will be a changed man. He will be stronger, tougher. He will be member of a group of people who serve their country so that others may live in peace and freedom. He will understand that freedom is never free. He will have a sense of purpose, and begin his own journey through adult life. He will fly.