When They Gotta Fly, You Have to Let Them

Tom Amsel. pg 2jpgA Boomer’s Journal

By Tom Anselm  

She was barely 2 years old when she put on her sisters purple and pink two-piece swim suit, reached into the drawer for the pool passes and walked the sidewalk of New Halls Ferry Road down to the Barrington Downs pool. By herself. At rush hour. Jill came home from work about 5 and found the rest of the family glued to the TV, watching the devastation wrought by the 100 Years Flood of 1993.

“Hi. Where’s Joanie?” she asked.  “She was right here… a second ago,” we all answered. Which set off a panic that lasted for barely 10 minutes but seemed like a lifetime as we scoured the house and then scattered into the streets in search.  Joey finally saw some kids coming from the pool, and they said “yeah, we saw a little kid in a swim suit…why?”

And there she was. At the lifeguard table. Smiling. No big deal.

We laughed, we cried.

I share this  tale of fatherly neglect because this same little wanderer graduates tomorrow with her degree in Early Childhood Education, and soon after will be heading west to work in the YMCA of the Rockies summer program.  This time, with her own swim suit, we presume.

It marks the end of an era for Jill and I.  The baby, the last one, the caboose.  Finally and effectively leaving the nest.  We are so proud of her, as we are of all our children.  They are bold, confident, strong.  They have been travelers all, from back-packing through Europe, to jetting over oceans right and left, north to the Windy City and west to the beckoning coastline of Southern California.  And now, off to the mountains.

The world sure is a smaller place than when I was young. It just never really occurred to me to live somewhere else. Heck, I’ve live in North County since age 5, and the lovely Jill her whole life. So there’s that.

Still, I can understand the kids’ wanderlust. They have come to know the world in ways we had never experienced, through movies, television, and the vast array of social media.  And it has turned out to be a good thing for us, in a way. We got to see a lot of places we may have never gone to, like Santa Monica, and Venice Beach and the wonders of Chicago.  We still laugh at the time when we first went to see our oldest there.  We came around the turn onto Lakefront Drive, just as the fog was lifting. We were awestruck by the abject beauty of hundreds of white sails shimmering in the sun against the blue water and sky.  We felt like Ma and Pa Kettle. And good old Joanie cracked us up by calling that great body of water “Lake Michigan Impossible.”

Of course, seeing your children leave for good has it’s downside.

The world may be much smaller, but it is also a whole lot scarier.  First, we have them all snuggled in this nice little  nest. Then, we must open our hands, and let them fly away. And now the final birdie is taking wing.  I mean, how do we know something bad isn’t going to happen?

Well, we don’t.  But we have faith, and so we smile bravely.

As true empty nesters now, we will have a house that goes well beyond our needs.  It is as great place, the one spot where all our kids have grown up. A living, breathing monument to our life as parents.  Why, we even just got a new fence to replace the pickets we put up 21 years ago to prevent further escapes of the young Joanster. It currently keeps the grandkids in check.  For now. But, the question beckons, is there something else down the road for us in a few years?

And so we reflect.  Our kids all are adults, have been for sometime. We still need them and they us. But in a different way, now. Call it an Evolution of Love, if you will.

Therefore, on this bittersweet occasion, we say “Faretheewell, last little one. Be safe. Embrace the adventure.” Just don’t forget to call when you get there.

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