Class of 2019

Have you ever considered that the distance between kindergarten and walking in your cap and gown to fulfill a kid’s compulsory education as an adult is thirteen years? I have jeans I’ve had for longer than that, and I bet you do, too. It’s a lifetime for our children, but it’s really just a blink and a turnaround for us.

I know a whole lot happened in my thirteen year window. And I know it was all already seismically shifting even with the advent of Kindergarten for Jeffrey, but it still stops my breathe when I realize how very very short the time is when they are small.

So on Saturday night, we all gathered at the George Mason arena to watch the sweet copper-headed boy who cried in my lap for Charlotte a.Cavatica only yesterday walk across the stage and move into the next phase of his life. He was so easy to spot–taller than everyone around him, a bright yellow sun painted on his mortarboard, and a copper-penny beard on his smiling face.

He graduated young, with a 3.71 gpa and was accepted into Utah State University and will start next summer, when he’s 18. All three of his parents are so proud of him.

Foxglove

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Bee on foxglove CREDIT: ALAMY

Late yesterday afternoon I sat myself gently down on my porch steps, and contemplated life. The sun was sinking low over the deep green cypress columns lining my neighbor’s yard, and a fat, furry carpenter bee was disappearing in and out of the foxglove in my flower beds. It was mesmerizing watching its furry little body, heavy with pollen, dip in and out of the pale purple blossoms.

We’re on the cusp of so many changes, it feels overwhelming some days, and I have to be quiet for a spell just to get the world to stop spinning and get my head set correct. Jeffrey graduated two weeks ago, Kelsey is right behind Jeff, Bean is fully mainstreamed for the first time in his life, and Abby is starting high school. I start law school in August. Everything is about to shift in a way it never has before, and maybe that’s true every minute of every day, but some moments feel bigger than others.

Jon sat himself down next to me on the steps and we stared out into our lush green yard, leaning towards each other but not speaking. As much as I complain about Virginia, it does the color green very well. It still floors me, forever a westerner at heart, that things just grow here without sprinklers or irrigation of any kind. Our yard is a lush paradise–velvety green grass under two giant shade trees, lined with hostas, lilacs, azaleas, foxglove, roses and lobelia. I have never watered or fertilized a damn thing. There were peonies, coming up for their third summer, but there was also an incident with Jon and an overzealous weed-wacker of which I cannot yet speak without weeping.

Anyway, we sat on the steps, two tired parents staring into the mid-distance at our little patch of Eden. Jon’s elbows on his knees, his hands relaxed. I break the comfortable silence. I’ve been thinking about the passage of time, and how incredibly short that time can be. I’ve been thinking about how rich and nuanced and complicated our ancestors lives must have been, and how they are reduced to being just names now, people who we know very little about, and I come back around to why I write. Losing David so young really affected me in ways I am still unraveling and piecing together.

Jon listened to me quietly, giving me the space to sort out thing with words because he knows this is what I need. I worry aloud about forthcoming challenges for our children, and he sits with me in this space too, a calm rock on which my cyclonic energy can tire itself out and finally come to rest. This is what he does for me and my eternally churning mind: He offers me a safe harbor.

When he speaks, it’s not much, but it’s also everything—a window into what I am worrying, behind all the words. “You know,” he pauses for a couple of heartbeats. “You know…you can forgive yourself for wanting to do something just for you. It’s okay.” He knows that under all of my swirling, is the fact that I’m struggling mightily with shifting my role in our family. The last two decades of my life have been about caring for, saving, protecting, defending, and building up my family. I am a part something beautiful, with remarkable humans, and I value this creation more than anything in the world.

I’ve never willingly stepped back from something I love this much. Jon reminds me that I am just going to school, and they do have two parents, and we laugh at how hard it still is for me to remember that he’s a very capable man and a very good dad. Yeah, I’m just going to school but I have no roadmap for the life I am imagining for myself. I have no roadmap for an engaged and loving dad taking over more of the parenting. I have no roadmap for co-parenting with an equal partner. I have no roadmap for being a parent in graduate school. I have no roadmap for what life looks like next.

He stares at me, a bit of mirth in his eyes. It takes me half a beat.

Oh. Right. I’ve never had a roadmap. And I’ve done it anyway.

****

Happy Father’s Day to those of you who celebrate such things. As always, it’s a complicated thing for our family—though to be honest, my kids don’t have the visceral flinching they once did. It’s amazing what a few years of love and support will do for tender hearts. I wish every one of you this kind of love.

We still skip church though. Platitudes really aren’t helpful to anyone, are they?