Ah, parenthood. At each little rite of passage, you get this twinge about how things will never be the same as they were again. And you're right, because there is a constant state of change that exists between us and them, and we can't stop time, nor would we really want to. Except for those photos that show up every so often that remind us of a time when he was portable and had a smile that would light up a room. Okay, I can still pick him up if I have to, and his grin is the one I work for when I am trying to amuse.
It's different, but it's the same. Over the past few weeks, we have reckoned one more time with the number of extended visits we have together. "When did you stop going home for Christmas," asked my son. I told him I made it a practice until shortly after I moved to California. Going to college in my hometown meant that I could drop in at my parents' house for all manner of occasions, including "I'm Out Of Groceries What's In Your Refrigerator Day." Especially "I'm Out Of Groceries What's In Your Refrigerator Day." Then came the day when I no longer relied on the supply line from Mom and Dad. I could find my way to the grocery store all by myself, and I could buy the stuff I wanted. That I could afford. I got this vibe from my son when he started talking about the snack drawer he maintains in his apartment. Snickers, Skittles. A bottle of beer.
And that's the moment when I wish that there was a place we could send our kids from age seventeen to twenty-one to a place where everything is inflatable. No sharp edges. Where a kid can learn how to avoid bouncing off life's hard realities in all manner of things. Relationships and physics and choices from which they can bounce back and leave no lasting scars. Nerf cars that would never leave dents or scratches and airbags that would deploy instantly before any harm could be done to any of the nascent adults. The illusion of invulnerability for those of us who are in their late teens and early twenties can be viewed easily on YouTube. I carry scars today that dispute that notion, but I would love to believe that my son will somehow avoid the stumbles, falls and crashes associated with learning the full extent of the law of gravity. And relationships. And choices.
My son is off again, living his life and filling his own snack drawer. My wife and I tried to fill him with the wisdom it would take to make his road free of bumps and scrapes, but there's really no way to avoid them. I just hope he savors each one. The way his dad did.