Friday, September 19, 2008

Andrew's Last Day Home

He had a list of things to do today: shop for a few more clothes; turn in his application for an absentee ballot; have lunch with his brother; finish packing; and maybe hang with a friend.

He got it all done except the buying of clothes. We agreed they probably sell clothes in the Big City.

I am very proud that he put getting his absentee ballot application in above buying clothes. This state is going to go red, we always do. It is almost like there isn't an election on. Nobody has signs for anyone in their yards. Today a student, a senior mind you, came by to ask if he could turn in a paper later. We ended up talking about email and I said, "After that Sarah Palin story I think I might change all my passwords, or maybe just the security questions." And he said, "Who's Sara Palin?"

But I digress.

Andrew got everything into five suitcases, plus his carry on for his laptop.

We are supposed to go out to dinner, but we are eating pizza at home. Andrew is feeling a little nauseous and has a slightly elevated temperature. He just wants to lie on his bed.

I'm thinking nerves.

I'm a little nauseous myself.

It is just impossible to believe that tomorrow I will fly with him to the Big City and leave him there. It is the right thing and the right time. He should be going. He really should. It is right.

I do not love my children "the same." I do not believe I have favorites, but the love I feel for each of them is as unique as they are. Each of them has touched a different place in me. I know it is hard to let any of them go, but I always suspected it would be most difficult with Andrew. We come from the same tribe.

Years ago he was struggling with a math problem and his dad was trying to explain it to him. He had divide 9 cubic feet by 3 square feet. Roland didn't understand what the problem was. Roland asked him how many square feet there were in 9 cubic feet. Andrew said, "an infinity?" And I saw it in my mind: a 3x3x3 cube sliced into squares, which being two dimensional and therefore without depth, not changing the size of the cube one bit. An infinite number of slices. Roland said, "No, just divide 9 cubic feet by 3 square feet. What do you get?" And Andrew said, "You can't divide cubes by squares!"

I helped him with it, promising that after I taught him how to divide cubes with squares we would divide elephants by zebras to see how many giraffes there were. He laughed and Roland looked at us like we were insane.

When he was four he asked me how clocks measure time. (My colleague at work said I should have told him that time goes through the clocks and pushes on the wheels inside.)

When he was three he was confused about what a question was. We had to avoid using the word altogether. If we forgot and said, "I have a question for you," he would run with excitement to get his question and thereby finally learn what it was. We would ask him what we wanted to ask and then he would hold at his hand and say, "Where's my question?" Once Roland told me that Andrew wanted to ask me something. I turned to him and said, "What's your question?" He looked at me confused and finally pointed to the inside of his elbow, "Is this it?"

He was the baby that turned me into a mother.

It was a long labor and I was exhausted when he was born. So tired. I breastfed and the nurses brought him in several times in the night. The second night when they came in I woke up hearing him cry and for a second I thought I was babysitting as I did in high school. I thought, "Where is this kid's mother and when is she coming back?!" And it hit me, I was the mother. No one was ever going to come. At that moment all I felt was despair.

Fortunately I got some sleep.

He reacted poorly to immunizations. At four months the injection site swelled and was hot. I gave him all the Tylen*l I could. All he wanted was to be held, and since I had no other children, I held him. For almost 24 straight hours, I held him.

I read all the child rearing books then, and I followed the ones that I thought were right ever-so-carefully. I worked hard to do everything "right." He watched little television. I read him books all the time. I bought him the toys that would stimulate his imagination. I gave him dolls and trucks. I agonized over how to respond to him when he was upset. How to be sympathetic while still encouraging him to be strong?

It was because of him that I developed my one and only deep superstition. Every time I criticized another parent because of his or her child's behavior, Andrew did the same thing within two months. To this day, I can't bring myself to say out loud that I think some child or youth does some particular thing because the parent was irresponsible. The thought occurs to me, and I sense the mischievous sprite over my shoulder, gleefully waiting for me to define the behavior so that it can be visited upon mine own. I've even warned other parents when they did it. They look at me like I am crazy. Later when their kid misbehaves in the same way I carefully refrain from saying, "I told you so."

I was twenty-six when he was born, but I still feel that his birth was the beginning of true adulthood for me. That was when I became responsible for another life. He came into my life and I became someone new.

And now almost nineteen years later he is leaving. It is the right thing and the right time. It is good. I know that it is.

But it is so hard.


  1. You done good, Yondalla. You done good.

  2. Andrew best fortunes and I hope that new adventure brings you much happiness and success.

    Yondalla, what a beautiful post. It is moments like this that remind us that parenting is bitter/sweet. How wonderful that you've raised such a caring, strong, responsible and curious son. How sad that those amazing traits are taking him onto this new adventure.

    Safe travels for you all.

  3. I was 26 when Stijn was born. He is six now and yesterday told me he was thinking about what God named the animals before he made adam (He does know this is a story about how life started, cristians but not creationists here). He wants to write books about natiure when he is older. I cannot phantom him leaving, he is so like me. Luckily my countrie is small (Now I just set myself up for a study abroad)

  4. That was the most beautiful, eloquent essay I have ever written about a "new adult" leaving the nest.

    I love the sweetness of it all...I needed this today.

  5. What a sweet sweet post on your boy and motherhood.


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