The past few years have been building up for last week – dropping our oldest child off at college. I feel like we have been living our lives in recent months getting ready for her to move 1000 miles away. There have been lots of “last” moments: goodbyes with friend groups, family dinners, shopping, packing, scheming…
Last Tuesday morning Sarah and I flew to Dallas with the last of her luggage and items for the dorm. We had already ordered a lot of things and had them shipped. When we were there for orientation in July, we rented a storage unit and had stuffed a bunch of things there too. We spent the day doing more shopping, moving everything out of storage and into the SUV and, essentially, rearranging boxes and bags a million times in an attempt to get organized for move-in. I had screwed up and neglected to book a hotel near campus (I thought I had but apparently did not follow through with the booking to completion) so we ended up in a hotel quite a ways north. It worked out just fine though because the location was convenient for everything we had left to do.
Paul was flying in late Tuesday night and we finished shopping about an hour before his flight landed. Texas has these massive truck-stop convenience stores called
Sarah and I with the “Buc-ee the Beaver” statue outside the GIANT truck stop in Fort Worth, TX.
Buc-ee’s that are a popular destination for snacks, jerkey, shirts, etc. and, really, the overall experience. We found out about them a couple of years ago when my I Run 4 buddy, Brennan, and his mom brought us some goodies from the Buc-ee’s near Houston. Sarah and I have been trying to get to one of these on our last couple of Dallas trips but they are pretty far outside of town and we just haven’t been able to make it work. Since we had to drive out to DFW airport, we decided to try to get to the Buc-ee’s in Fort Worth before the airport. We knew that we would only have a matter of minutes before we had to turn around and head back but, we decided to go for it. I love these little trips with my oldest and we have had our share of them – usually cramming a trip somewhere when we don’t really have time (but we do it anyway). I’m glad we went – it made her really happy and we created memories and laughs together.
Wednesday morning was move-in day. Sarah was scheduled for 11am, staggered from her roommate that had a 9am slot. It was a really hot, muggy TX summer day and we knew that we were in for a long one. I gotta say, the university had things very well organized and we were met with lots and lots of help – and carts – that allowed us to move the entire contents of the SUV in just about 1 1/4 trips. Her dorm building and dorm room is beautiful – quite large and nice. We set up her bed and bedding, organized her closet and built some of the IKEA furniture we had brought. We finished most of our work in a few hours and we were able to go grab some lunch together. Sarah had a meeting in the engineering school so we left her to go do that and we ran some errands to grab some last minute things for her. By 6pm, it was time for the moment I had absolutely been dreading. I was crying in short spurts just thinking about saying goodbye. We went to a family BBQ in the dining hall then we were supposed to say our goodbyes before the kids headed off to the basketball arena for the start of their new student orientation – which lasted for 4 days. I did cry, but not quite as hard as I anticipated. She was a little bit sad but I think it was mostly because I was. She seemed excited to get things started.
We left campus (actually ran into her one more time as we walked to the garage but we just gave her a funny high -five instead of starting the cry-fest again). Our friends live nearby campus so we planned to meet up with them for some drinks and that was exactly what we needed. Going back to the hotel alone would have been far too emotional. I consumed far too many calories in fried foods at the bar, but I was grateful for the night out.
Our flight home was very early the next morning. We woke up to a heavy rain storm which delayed our flight a bit but were glad that we had not experienced all of that rain the day before during move-in. By 11am we were already back in Phoenix and back to reality. Paul went straight to work and I drove our other car at the airport straight home. We travelled home with 4 large, mostly-empty suitcases. Up until this point I had been pretty proud of the way I had held in my emotions – I didn’t want to be a crying mess in front of Sarah and her classmates. But, after walking up the stairs at our house, I was confronted by this, her empty bedroom. And I sobbed…finally.
Yes, she will be home for visits and long summer breaks (at least one we hope). But things will never be the same. She lives somewhere else now. I remember how it was. My visits home were wonderful but I used the word “home” or “back” to refer to my college home and friends…not my home of 18+ years. It is the way it is supposed to be, but it hurts.
So life around here resumes. Kid #2 and #3 are now 3 weeks into their school year. We had our fantasy football draft, a 25+ year tradition. High school football games for my son are underway. I got myself back to the gym today and my workouts are getting incrementally easier. I am already FIVE weeks into half marathon training. It is also time to throw out any excuses and work hard to get this extra weight off. It is time to carry on.
Last night we went out to dinner as a family – party of 4 – our new reality.