As he woke up and started the coffee maker he looked out the window and smiled. He could hear the sound of the rain pounding on the roof and he could almost feel it moving to the gutters and down the side to the little drains he had built many years before this day. He let out a big smile, as it was very fitting that it would be raining on a day like today. He wasn’t sure exactly how this day would feel, but he knew that any other smile he had today would be forced. He was never a really big “God” guy, but he knew there was something out there, some type of energy that knew he needed to have that little smile all to himself before anyone else in the house was awake. The rain would help hide the tears he knew he would feel today.
For most, this was just a regular August day. Work for the adults, and one of the last summer vacation days for the kids before heading back to school. Maybe you have the day off, or week off to spend some time with the kids before the craziness of September starts. But for this family there was nothing normal about today. Their lives would be forever changed by today. Things would be completely different, and Mom and Dad weren’t ready. Sure, they talked a big game. They didn’t show their fears on their faces in front of their beautiful little girl. But, Mom and Dad were both emotionally wrecked that today was here.
It was easy to dream about it all those years ago. Mom and Dad dreaming about someday being “alone” again. Someday being free to do whatever you wanted. All those plans you make or places you dream of going to while you are changing a diaper or stopping that little girl from peeing her pants in a department store. All those “I can’t wait for” moments to come while you try to get your little girl to eat her vegetables and the places your mind wanders off to while your daughter has a temper tantrum in a shoe store because you just don’t want her to buy those weird shoes you know in your heart she would never actually wear once you bought them.
Mom and Dad had years to prepare for this day. They smiled for 17 years just thinking about what life would be like, but then one day, all those fantasy conversations about college became real. The “I want to go here” became “I applied here”. The logistics of living in another State were fun to talk about, until you were putting down a deposit for “room and board”.
Dad filled his days approaching this awful August day with trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond for comforters, pillows and whatever else he could think of that his little girl would need. He made sure he bought the black little refrigerator because his daughter wanted that color instead of the generic white version he had at his college all those years ago. He avoided his feelings as long as he could. He would hear Mom and daughter talking in her room, laughs almost always turned to tears. He’d stay in the kitchen and do the dishes, or prepare his lunch for work the next day. Doing anything to avoid his daughter seeing him lose it. Not sure why, his daughter has known for years that he wasn’t afraid to shed a few tears. That was one thing she always loved about him. But, to him, this time, he wanted to show her he was proud of her, that he was excited for her, and didn’t want her to worry about him while she was off living out her dreams.
As everyone woke up, they all could feel it. The youngest daughter broke up the tension at breakfast joking about all the changes she would be making to this new room she would be taking over. Their rooms were always the same size, but, there was always something about that room that made it cooler to her, probably because her idol (she’d never admit that) lived in there. As the last of the coffee was drank everyone knew it was time. How had 18 years gone by this quickly? Mom and Dad each drifted in and out of different memories on the 6 hour drive to school. It was the shortest 6 hours this Dad could ever imagine. He drove the speed limit the whole way. No need to weave in and out of traffic like he had done for years. The kids, or young adults now I guess, fought over what songs to play, while Mom held Dad’s hand and squeezed so hard it felt like his hand was going to break.
As they arrived on campus, little sister’s eyes were wide open. She was in awe of how big it was. It was like a completely different world to her. Her sister was all of the sudden an adult in her eyes. She couldn’t believe her sister, that brat, had made it here. Dad found the dorm and was directed to pull over and put his hazard lights on. It was to be a quick “drop off” as they had been able to ship most everything the week prior and the college had a service to set up the room with everything. So, it was only a few bins of clothes that had to be loaded on the elevator and brought up to room 314. Again, Mom and Dad wanted to hit the pause button, then rewind the tape all the way back to the beginning. But, they knew she was ready. They knew they did all they could. Dad was always confident in that. Mom was a GREAT Mom. Always had been, ever since day 1. Sure, Dad got a lot of credit because he was always around, always involved in whatever passion she had, but he knew the truth, that it was Mom who got her here. Dad was the comic relief, but Mom had done all the heavy lifting.
As they walked from the elevator to the dorm room, Dad was counting his steps in his head, trying to think of the perfect thing to say as they said goodbye. He’d been dreading this moment, trying to summarize 18 years into just one sentence. He watched as she hugged her sister and then her Mom and he cleared his throat and he had it, he knew what he was going to say. But, just as her eyes met his she fell into his arms and he knew words weren’t needed. She said everything in that hug that he needed to hear without saying a word. She was ready and that was going to have to be good enough for Mom and Dad.
As they drove away, all three with tears in their eyes, they knew life was going to be different. The sister now remembered that all of Mom and Dad’s attention would be on her and she thought in her head “Oh shit, I’m screwed”.