Just a couple months earlier, Max spent nearly a full month in India, hiking and backpacking. It was his high school graduation gift. I thought it would help me prepare for his leaving in the fall.
I was wrong.
Nothing prepared me. Oh, I knew he was growing up and pushing himself away from shore. I knew that when he made some crazy choices over graduation weekend. I knew it when he transported home a hookah from India, cradling it in his lap as if it were a precious newborn. I knew it when he spent more time with friends than family throughout the summer.
I knew. I swear I did. And I told myself that this was nature's way of getting me used to not having him around. Let me tell ya, I can be one convincing broad. But now that he's actually gone, meaning, HE DOES NOT LIVE HERE ANYMORE, I realize that there is no getting used to it. There's just acceptance, because what else can I do?
Though he once spent nearly all his waking hours--and many of his slumbering ones, too--literally attached to me by sling or backpack or some other baby-carrying apparatus, the Barnacle Boy did develop into an independent young man. Despite the warnings of people who did not know me or Max but who likened our family bed to child abuse, my son did not grow up to be a serial killer (yet) or a mama's boy. He does not suffer from low self-esteem, nor does he have intimacy issues. He's a normal young adult. And he was so ready to leave this house, this town. And me.
I tried not to take it personally. I mean, really. He had the confidence to strike out on his own in part because I nurtured that independence and spirit in him. How many 17-year-olds hop on an international flight to a foreign land by themselves (though he did meet up with a friend) and take each day as it comes, just living in the moment and embracing whatever adventure awaits him? But that's Max. He's comfortable in his own skin, and the unknown doesn't unnerve him. He lacks street smarts (come on, we live in Windsor, population 20,000) but makes up for that in the level of faith he has in himself. Those attitudes? They don't just happen. They are crafted.
So I totally realize and understand that Max was able to tell me it was time for me to go last week as we stood outside his dorm because I did my job right. We don't share all the same values or beliefs. We don't agree on a lot of issues. One of our favorite pasttimes these last few years was late-night debating. Max and I are two sides of the same coin. We are of one another, but we have steadfastly different views on life.
And that is why I can respect my son even as I want to shake him and ask what the hell he is thinking. It is why I can truly feel how much I love him even when I don't necessarily like the person he is being (and he's not liking me). It is, ultimately, why I can let him go with tears, yes, but also with the knowledge that he is exactly where he should be.
That, and he's coming home to visit tomorrow. Heh.