A new chapter

Yesterday, we dropped our daughter off at Monmouth University, a private college of about 6400 students just one mile from the beach in central Jersey-or as us Jersey-ites explain locations in our state, Exit 105. (of the Garden State Parkway) Tim and I both thought we were going to lose it yesterday. For months, we have teared up just at the thought of saying goodbye to her there and driving away. But, we did great. We are both pretty good “clutch players.” We are strong in the moment, and sometimes anticipation of events is worse than the actual event. Now, don’t get me wrong, we may have avoided the tears yesterday, except for a quick mist-over as we left our house, but there are tears to come for sure. As the days pass, I expect it will get harder. We plan to go to the first home football game in 20 days, and bring some things we forgot or didn’t think of, and that will be a LONG time for us. Aside from her going on vacation with family friends once for a week, and Tim not seeing her for 2 weeks during his stem cell transplant, we have never been apart.

We took a spin down by the ocean after we left her to see the waves hurricane Ermine stirred up and Tim got a bite to eat. I drove home because he had a headache and at some point, I said that we just left our heart behind at that college. Pictures ran through our minds of her at much younger ages and Tim just cannot get over how fast it went. For us, it’s bittersweet, as everything in our lives is. We both admit that we are glad we made it to see her grow up. We both have had health issues, but his MM of course is the most concerning. Having an MM specialist tell him in 2007 that he would not see his girl graduate high school was a blow so hard, I cannot even begin to explain how it felt. But, as much as we are grateful for this time with her, every gain represents a loss too. He misses his baby, and toddler, and pre-teen. I do too, but I am relieved in a big way that she is grown up. The fear that she was going to lose her father during her childhood was so difficult to deal with. The fear that Tim would not see what she would look like or be like as an adult just SUCKED so bad. And, truth be told, growing up in this world of ours is not easy. Girls are vicious. Her local school years ended on a very good note, but, there were some rough times in there that were so heartbreaking. The friends she has now are not the ones she had when high school started, something I warned her might happen back then. And, she has “cleaned house” which is something I am glad she learned the value of, since I learned it WAY too late in life. After the girl she thought was her BFF betrayed her almost 2 years ago, things changed a lot. After she got back on her feet, she decided that the rest of the drama queens and troublemakers were going to go after school was over and she phased them out pretty much. She is better off. She has her real friends now, and I expect she is going to make a TON more in college.

I told Tim yesterday, this does not seem like just a new chapter in our lives, it feels like a whole new book. It very recently occurred to me that my kid is moving out for just over 8 months. I was concentrating on those breaks that she will be home, but, the reality is, she will be vacationing here, but living elsewhere for 8 months of the year for the next 4 years. That is really painful for us, and surreal too.

As with Tim’s MM diagnosis, I find myself, again, playing mind games with myself, trying to find whatever tiny silver linings I can. I think of parents whose kids are going much further away to school. One girl that I know of decided to do her 1st semester of college life in Ireland. Her parents were just trying to cope with her going to college in North Carolina and then she decides to do this too. Other parents have kids with medical issues or social issues that make this a much scarier scenario for them. But, try as I may to use perspective and be grateful for what we’re NOT dealing with, our pain and angst is still there and valid. We talked to Liv last night and she got a bad headache after she had dinner. Her roommate wound up with one too so they stayed in their room and watched TV. UGH, already the mom nerves kick in. My kid is not well and I am not there to help. I think it was allergy related. Her eyes were bloodshot yesterday and the allergies are bad now for most people. I hope she woke up better.

I know that going away to college is a good thing for our daughter. She needs to learn to be more responsible and that was not happening much living at home. She will be more independent and mature. I guess that is another part of the pain though. Tim and I both agreed that she will not be the same person we dropped off yesterday when she graduates, or even after this first year. And, we are sad that we will miss out on SO many events in her life now. It’s like being cut off from your main source of happiness and fulfillment. But, what can ya do? A woman said to me the other night, “what’s the alternative?” Well, the alternative is you don’t let them go away to college because you are too selfish to let them make their own choices and create their own life. That’s not an option for us. Even though I would understand it if Tim was not willing to lose this time with her, in his position, he, as always, did the selfless thing and said again yesterday that he did not want his illness to deprive her of living HER life.

And, I have to create a life for myself now too. I have been too much the caregiver and short-changed myself for so long. I am paying a price for that, in many ways.

Olivia’s roommate hung a sign on their wall that I just had to take a photo of. It said, “CARPE the freakin’ DIEM.” And, that’s what the three of us have to do. We have to seize this day and all the good things that are going on and will come from her college days and education. Because really, what is the alternative? Not making the best of all that is going on? Not grabbing the opportunities that every life change brings with it? Not seeing our daughter change from a caterpillar to a butterfly? None of that makes sense. Change is hard, but, it’s necessary. You can’t stay stuck where you are forever.

So, we turn the page, we begin a new chapter. Heck, we write a whole new book. And, it’s a good thing. A good, and necessary, and hard, and joyous thing.

Carpe the freakin’ diem. Words to live by.