I think the first phase of grieving my oldest son’s leaving the house for college is beginning with denial. I’m way too young to have a child leaving for college, or at least I’d like to think so.
In the process of helping Michael clean his room (which he shares with his younger brother) and sort out what’s what, we had to come to an understanding. I told Michael there were four piles for his stuff and he needed to made decisions and put things in the right pile, and these piles have different sizes as well. They are as follows.
Largest pile – toss that junk!
Next largest pile – pass down to younger siblings or donate to charity
Medium pile – stuff he’s actually taking with him to college
The smallest, tiniest, almost microscopic pile – things he’d like us to store for him while he’s getting his first degree
Of course when I was telling Michael the parameters of the piles, I made sure that he realized the last pile was only out of the goodness of our hearts and he needed to be extremely grateful. I know he’s going to miss my sense of humor when he’s gone.
As we gradually filled up one bin of stuff he’d like to keep forever, just not take with him to college, I saw once again the importance of memories, milestones, and souvenirs. I also saw how personal they are and the sentiment attached to these things are only understood by the rightful owner. You can pass down a favorite old toy, but you can’t always pass down the sentiment as to why that faded, beat up old thing is so special to you.
Things that stood out: DVD’s and t’shirts from his class at church, notes from his sister (they really do love each other!), and a page that represented the most awesome semester of history class he ever experienced. It was very interesting that some of these precious things were buried under a layer of clutter and multiplying dust bunnies. Thanks son, for teaching me that there are great things to hang on to in life and I need to get rid of the junk that’s covering them up. I wouldn’t have traded helping you clean out your room for anything, because I needed to go through this journey along with you. It would be expected for me to say that the experience will soften the blow of losing you around the house each day. But can anything really make this transition more bearable?
One late night, when my eyes are puffy and red from crying from missing my firstborn so much, I’ll probably sneak into the space we’ve allocated for his keep forever box, open it up and spend a few moments with things that are treasured by the one who took a piece of my heart with him.