“I’ll keep him here with me when you go back.”
Him is Red, our fourteen-year-old cat. Here is my son’s apartment in Colorado Springs, our place of escape as we evacuate our small town. And Go Back is home, where we long to be, even if it will take almost three hours to get there, though we technically only live 20 minutes away.
In this small moment, a million thoughts fill my head. I look around and, through the veil of denial, I am reminded that my firstborn lives on his own in this apartment we’re in, a grown man, now 22 (though he will say 21). I see my second-born son, eager to get home, back to his man cave, and I have to accept he is also practically a grown man – 18 in September – already taller than his older brother. And my tiny baby girl, almost 16, my equal in size but surpassing me in beauty and wisdom.
My three, all caught up in a flurry of fire activity, growing before my very eyes. Mature, smart, funny, real adult people, not just a future version I made up long ago. I’m learning to let go, to let them grow. It’s hard, because this is what I know, this parenting, these people as small and needy, and yet they aren’t small or as needy as before. Their needs have changed and sometimes I refuse to see.
Perhaps what is hardest is knowing we are so close to them flying on their own. And that leaves me slightly empty, because the truth is, a new stage of life is coming for me and I don’t recognize it for what it is — my own room to grow. People tell me this is a great place to be, the children growing up and leaving me room to be more Angela and less Mom, and I think, “I can see your lips moving but I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth!”
“You’re not going to need me much longer.”
My counselor sits across from me and smiles. And I accept her words because I actually believe her. I won’t need to sit in that room for an hour every Tuesday morning anymore because I have changed. Oh, maybe you can’t look at me and see the changes, but as I don’t cringe when my phone rings, or feel physically ill as a wedding begins, or full of fiery nerves as I sit with a client, I KNOW I’ve changed.
In just a short amount of time – time that feels like forever and only yesterday – I’ve learned to unload some of the trunks of bad memories I’ve kept pushed back into the deepest parts of my heart. I’ve learned how not to allow fear to hold me hostage and fill me with dread that leaves me woozy and literally unbalanced. And I’ve come to understand that I needed room to grow into who I am today instead of holding onto who I once was or who others think I should be.
This place I’m in, this process of acceptance, is more about letting go instead of holding on. Giving wings to children and to self, permission to be just exactly who we all are – together and individually. It used to be really scary. Now it’s just kind of…exciting.