Toby is sleeping in the other room and like the mother of a newborn I keep quietly opening the door to check on him. I guess, really, to just look at him and take comfort that he is there. He leaves tomorrow, very early and I am trembling at the thought.
He and David will get up at 4 AM for the airport bus to arrive in time for the two-hour check-in required before an 8AM international flight. There is a 4 hour layover in Dublin before Toby re-boards with all the Irish folk returning from a visit to the homeland or headed to the US to see long-lost cousins or grandchildren not seen in at least a year. He is most excited about the layover and plans to have a couple of pints of Guinness for breakfast. The idea of drinking Guinness in Dublin inspires him as it would most 20 somethings - or his father. I almost wish David could travel along to share the experience except that I will probably be a slobbering mess when they leave and will be happy when David returns to the flat to keep me company.
Tavish, having studied in Dublin for a semester, has most certainly already had Guinness for breakfast, lunch, dinner and about any other time he could break away for one. Within hours of first arriving at the college there, the students were taken on a bus to the distillery for tours and tastes, most likely in an ill-conceived plan to get the desire out of their systems. I suspect it only threw gas on an already burning fire.
From Dublin, Toby will fly directly to Chicago where he already understands all the twists and turns of the El and should easily, if not so quickly, make his way to the apartment on the north side of the city that he will share with 5 friends, all actors or students. He has a job to get started while he looks for something a bit better and has already arranged for some standup gigs. He is well on his way. And I am sitting here bursting at the seams with pride, filled with excitement for his adventure and feeling like I will collapse into tears at any minute.
I feel all soft inside like the first time I held either of the boys. It is strange to feel this way having said goodbyes with both of them so often over the years - summer camp, boarding school, college, travels. Of course, I cried each of those times, usually big gasping sobs, but only always after I was out of their sight fearing that seeing their Mom in such a state night make them homesick. It was a silly worry as they each seemed to embrace every new experience with gusto. Oh, there were occasional difficult or teary times, of course, but many fewer than the norm I think. My boys are resilient, inquisitive and if nothing else, fearfully independent.
But somehow this is different.
This time I know Toby is going out on his own and will never again live with us as our “little one” which I have always called him even though Tavish is much smaller. Toby is the youngest and therefore by default perceived to be the most fragile, Mama’s little boy. He is neither of those things.
These six months, despite our almost constant disagreements, have been a gift. I have watched him continue to grow and change in ways I didn’t expect. And I have watched as he gained about 20 pounds, filled out, grew a beard and now looks much more like a man than a boy. Fortunately he still gives me hugs without which I would surely collapse. Perhaps that is what I most fear - losing the goodnight hugs, knowing he is safely home. I will never have that again. He is most surely now responsible for himself in ways I was not prepared to accept for another few years.
This is Toby’s spring. The air, nature, even the length of the days are drenched in hope for his future. I am in the late summer or perhaps even early fall of my own life - leaves a little droopy, too tired somedays to feel like doing very much other than just sitting and feeling the warm moist air around me. Toby is like a new bud popping out of the ground, looking around and screaming, “Yippee!! Look at all that room around me to grow into. Wow, smell that air. Hey, roots, let go. I’ve got things to do.” As Leo Tolstoy once wrote , he is “…a plant that has just opened and spread its leaves among all the other plants and is going to grow up simply, peacefully and joyfully…” Well, that is what I hope for him. There are sure to be some trials.
“Make way for this wonderful plant that is filling out its buds and growing in the spring” Look out world, her comes Toby. He is loved, and supported and will be missed terribly - but he’s got a lot of living to do!
"You should always be excited about the next chapter of your existence"
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