TERRE HAUTE —
I must have had at least a dozen people ask at my son’s wedding a few weeks ago whether I cried, or “how I was handling losing him.” I think they all knew just how tight I am with my two kids, and thought I must have come completely unglued when it finally hit me that he was on his own for good, that the rules had changed nearly as much in my life when he said ,“I do,” as they did for him.
“It’s not like he’s moving very far,” I told more than one concerned friend. “I imagine he’ll be at our kitchen table for a meal or two before long,” I said. Above all, I didn’t want to seem to be a panicked “empty nester,” someone who is so wrapped up in his kids that he can’t go on and live his own life, and I’m reasonably certain that the last thing my son wants his mom and me to do is sit in our house in nervous anticipation of a phone call or pop-in from the newlyweds.
I remained reasonably stoic that Saturday. “I don’t cry at weddings,” I bragged, and I joked that for the first time in my life I was going to be guaranteed a bathroom all to myself, that I wouldn’t be lugging his enormous shoes out of my way anymore, that I wouldn’t have to deal with a mangled toothpaste tube every morning. Why, my grocery bill will no longer require a search for loose change under the sofa cushions, and he won’t be borrowing my dress socks anymore. He sometimes had no idea what he had done with the tools he’d borrowed, and my house is going to be quieter, I’ve thought. After all, Evan is a notorious door-slammer, hard walker, and table drummer.
I have to admit that I did get a little teary-eyed when I saw my son turn to see his bride coming down the aisle. I thought at the time that he had the same dumb-founded expression on his face that I had on mine over 30 years ago on my wedding day. Until that moment for each of us, I don’t think we had truly realized how lucky we really were. And, when I saw a series of old snapshots of Evan with the three grandparents he’s lost as they were flashed on a big church video screen, I did cry a bit, all in wishing that my folks and my wife’s dad had lived long enough to see the day. I saw my son in football uniforms and with his 4-H rabbits and standing with my buddy, Joe, after a day of fishing, and it just hit me that each of those days was gone, not just for him, but for me too.
I also think I knew then that when it comes to the moment his sister marries, I won’t stand a chance; like a lot of other dads, I’ll just be a little puddle of water on the floor.
More than anything, I realized that the old adage that says that the “more things change, the more they stay the same,” is mostly wrong. Life is change, and there’s nothing we can do about it but ride its wave.
I don’t want to make this too maudlin; I’m happy for my boy. He has a great girl, and he has a job, and he can take care of himself if he has to. He married into a good family and will have a tight roof over his head. Other than worrying about things that dads always worry about until the day they die, like whether he’s saving instead of spending and if he’s cleaning his water heater with regularity and checking his furnace filters, I’m pretty confident that we’ve raised a kid who will do the job of living a good life, so my tears were temporary.
I have already noticed in these past few days that when I want to use the bathroom, Evan’s not showering, that my toothpaste tube remains pristine, that there’s room for my shoes by the backdoor, and that when Joanie came home from the grocery store yesterday the only reason we had a pretty hefty receipt is that she had bought a few extra bags worth of food to stick in the kids’ refrigerator until they get their supply built up.
The house sure seems quiet though...
Mike Lunsford can be reached at hickory913@ aol.com or c/o The Tribune-Star at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. His third book, "A Place Near Home," is available through his website and is in local stores now. Visit his website at www.mikelunsford.com.