by Dave Markwell

Last Saturday, I dropped my son off at college. Walking the hallways of his fraternity, I remembered the timeless smells of stale beer and bad choices. I carried a mini-fridge, a TV, and several bags of miscellany up too many stairs with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. It was a day of days.

Certain moments, in a life of moments, stand out and live close to the front of our memory. Recognizing and truly feeling the significance of this first day was impactful, because every first day is also a last day. I knew that my son was gone. Not gone from my life, nor my house, nor my care or love or concern or wallet, but gone in the symbolic, but real, ways that our kids move on with life. And this last day was a tough one to take.

I remembered his first day of school, the nights he would climb in to my bed after a bad dream, lost teeth and homework and pets, watching his little legs chase a soccer ball, reading “Go Dog Go” a thousand times and him always laughing at “It’s a paaarty!!! A DOG PARTY!!!”. I remembered all of it, every bit, and on my drive home, I stopped by my old buddy’s house for a stiff drink. He wasn’t home, so I just sat in his driveway and cried. It was a moment that will forever live close to the surface of my mind and heart.

I think these are the good ones. The ones we feel in our bones. We are reminded of the only truly important things in life: the people we love. And our kids top the list. And they leave. And they should, and indeed must. It’s what we raised them to do. But, it still kind of sucks when they do it. It’s a success that doesn’t feel like one. Certainly, pride and hope and joy accompany these experiences, but my selfish sadness carried the day.

I think this is kind of like birth. For all of our preparations, we’re never really prepared. The experience is rarely exactly as we imagine it and we often find ourselves ill-equipped and inadequate to the task of being a good parent. We do our best, but largely make it up as we go and sometimes get lucky. I got lucky.

So begins another new time in a lifetime of new times. The challenge of transition will be met and the balance between the tears and the smile is already tipping towards the bright side. Things end and we can either spend time lamenting this unavoidable fact or we can be happy that the thing existed at all. And I could not be more happy about the countless moments of love and frustration and confusion and clarity that my boy inspired and we shared. He taught me way more than I taught him. I suspect this won’t change.

So, while he will no longer be haunting the wee hours in my house each night, he will remain everywhere else. Our kids never really leave us. They stay in the important places. And this is a good reminder on the days when they feel gone.
All of life is change. This is the good part, though not always the easy part. Through it, we change. We evolve and gain perspective and learn. This trend continues from the cradle to the grave and is truly the only constant in life. This is a good reminder, too: we’re still being built and we have many more our own exciting, inspiring and fun first days ahead of us, too…we’re not done…

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here). He also runs the Waterland Arcade, located at 22306 Marine View Drive South. Dave extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, Dave needs more friends – find him on Facebook here.


One Response to “FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: Gone.”
  1. Norma says:

    This sure hit a nerve. Besides the birth of each of my children, the happiest/saddest days of our lives were when we dropped each one them off at college. Now I’m feeling nostalgic for the young family days.

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