It was not the first time that our son had been out of the house before me. What made this early exit significant was the fact that he had no real place to go. For the past several years, it has become increasingly difficult to get him "up and at 'em." I should add here that for a while in my youth I thought this phrase was "up and atom," with some veiled reference to nuclear power. That aside notwithstanding, I rolled over in my bed, eyes still closed and listened to the sounds of my son sneaking out of the house. Since he had announced his nominal plans the night before, "sneaking" may not be a fair term. I should perhaps focus on the consideration he was giving us by keeping his move through the back of the house and out the door as stealthily as possible, given the time: Before six. In the morning.
His mother and I had our suspicions. We wondered why this boy, who had shown a propensity for sleeping through multiple alarms and disregarding most any and all attempts to wake him up, would suddenly begin to seek out the hours before sunrise. He told us that it was because he wanted to get out and see the sun come up. There was some small precedent for this, having made that same commitment with his friends in the first few weeks of school as part of a senior tradition. He lapsed back abruptly to sleeping like the dead until the last possible moment.
Now, as we make the big slow turn into the last semester of high school, we all find ourselves wondering what life will be like when we don't all share one roof. Mom and dad will be responsible for getting mom and dad to wherever they need to go. Son will do what it takes to get himself on his appointed rounds on time. It's a work in progress. I can imagine all kinds of ways that he could get himself in trouble at o-dark-thirty. Meeting a girl, perhaps? He's seventeen. He has a driver's license and a car. Meeting a girl would be the next logical step. If his mother and I didn't want him to meet girls, we should have insisted on that bus pass in perpetuity.
It seems likely that after the first of the year, he will settle back into the routine of having his parents shake him out of bed. It's just too easy not to. But for now, that experience of walking out into a house with one less soul gave me pause. And a little bit of thanks.