I got an email from my brother today out of the blue asking if I remember sending him something I was writing for my blog several years ago. I did remember it vaguely, but not entirely. Then I read it and talk about a flood of memories! Walk back in time with me a few years and you will see what I am talking about…..
Today is just an ordinary Monday. I am at work and life is moving right along. My heart is nostalgic today as I just went to my niece Stephanie’s wedding. What a beautiful wedding it was. Stephanie and Michael are so in love and so excited to begin their life together, yet it makes me very sad….
I saw the look on my brother’s face as he watched the dance of the bride and groom. I saw the pain in a father’s heart that says I have just lost my little girl. They announce the father/daughter dance and he takes a deep breath and puts on a smile and walks forward and takes his little girl by the hand. He then proceeds to hold her close, his heart bursting inside. He remembers the little girl in pigtails looking up at him with bright blue eyes. At that age, your daddy is your hero, your protector and can fix anything and any situation. Today, he has given her hand in marriage to a wonderful young man and along with that went the right to be her protector. Gosh! How does this happen? Never, ever in a million years did I ever realize the pain would be so deep. It’s not a sadness for their future, but rather a mourning over time long gone. No longer can you solve their problems with a new toy or an ice cream cone. No longer can you choose what people come in and out of their lives. In a sense you are helpless and must rely on God and what you instilled in your child growing up.
I remember one summer day in 2004. My son Eric was 15 and I woke myself up from a dream and I was in tears. I dreamed I got up on a Sunday morning and went down to wake him up and it was time to take him to college. Oh, how my heart ached and how I cried. I went to my pastor that day and told him of my dream and he replied – “Don’t worry, you still have three years”. That was five years ago now. In 2005, I went to my niece Allison’s high school graduation. As I was sitting there, three hours away from my home, I saw on the big screen pictures of the 2005 graduates when they were small toddlers. I could hardly contain myself knowing that in two very short years I would be sitting in an auditorium as my son graduated and left for college. Later that night, I was at my brother’s home and he asked me to come upstairs as he wanted me to listen to something. He played me a song that he used to play for Allie when she was little. She would be in her car seat and he would play it and they would sing together. It was about a little girl growing up and finding a husband. We both cried and cried that night. A year later, Allie got married and moved five hours away. At her wedding, again, I cried and cried at the father/daughter dance and the look on my brother’s face.
Then came fall of 2006 and Eric’s senior year. My heart was so full that entire year! A brilliant student, Eric has always succeeded at all he has attempted. From the lawn service he began as an early teen to running for student government in junior high, high school and college. Majoring in two subjects, in the Honors Program, an accomplished pianist, traveling abroad and traveling to DC for various political functions, Eric S. Deems is not afraid to go after anything. I remember the first year he went to the prom. He looked so handsome in his tuxedo. I pulled him into my room and said – “Wait – I get the first dance”. I then played Have I told You Lately That I Love You by Rod Stewart and we danced til we both had tears in our eyes. I was so proud of him. From the girl he had chosen to date, to his work ethic, to his sense of humor and logic, to his worshipers heart, it was clear I was totally head over heels in love with my son.
I miss the days when he was little and I would rock him to sleep every day for his nap. All the goofy things we did. How he loved tape and stickers and dinosaurs and cars. The day he got his first bike, then the day he got a bike that had never had training wheels. He always had a drive to succeed and be around important people. Always ahead of his time and always looking to the future. On the day of his graduation – wow! He was the most decorated senior of his class and was voted by the class to give a speech. He also won the most scholarship money in his class. We were so proud. On the day we left our hotel in Nashville, Tennessee and followed his Ford Taurus to the college to move him into the dorm, I thought I was going lose my mind! But I “gutted” it up and went with a smile on my face and moved my baby 7 hours away. To me, I still remember the little boy who loved Ricky Skaggs and played a make believe fiddle, tried to smoke “green beans” and acted a fool in the grocery store. The handsome little lad that always was dressed in different suit and tie each week for church. The child that liked playing baseball but loved playing the piano. The times I would go into his room to try to help him clean it and he would hop on the piano and play while I cleaned. The twelve year old boy who became my pianist and played for me three days a week at our church for the next 6 years. My Psalmist, my buddy, my prayer partner, my child and my friend. We wrote songs together, sang together, worshiped together and had a great time. I remember when he was 16, he and I were going to the Smoot Theater to see a Hometown Christmas and went to dinner first. I was mistaken for his girlfriend! We laughed, Eric was sure he had been mistaken for being older, while I was sure I was mistaken for being younger. The following Christmas he and I sang a duet at the Hometown Christmas program. The day before we had been in Cincinnati Ohio to see the Transiberian Orchestra. In the elevator going to our room, we were once again mistaken for each other’s date! We laughed and went inside to order room service. We had a great time.
I was so happy to have him come home that first holiday after going to college. But, by March, I couldn’t stand it and I flew to Nashville for my birthday to see my baby. We had such a terrific time! He took me to Sambuca and the band was terrific and I loved listening to all of his hopes and dreams and encouraging him to never, ever give up! The following summer, 2008, he surprised me by coming home a couple of days early and we were looking forward to a great summer. Then my son Brent was hit by a semi truck. – more on that in Brent’s chapter. But as I loaded up his car and drove with him back to school, I was sad, once again to know that he was going to be so far away. Christmas 2008, he went to London for a study abroad program and we saw very little of him. He came home again in March, but only for three short days. How my heart sank when I learned he would not be coming home this summer but staying in Nashville to take summer school. I had seen him less than 30 days this entire school year and this was not improving. He came home to get the rest of his things and I went back with him to help him move into his apartment. I was thrilled to help him do this and so proud of him and his choices. Today, I am looking forward to the three days in August that I will see him and then I will fly to Nashville in September for parents weekend. Oh, how I miss that child.
Every once in awhile, I will get a call and hear the song “Have I told You…” playing on the other end. Funny, the last time I pulled away from meeting him halfway between here and Nashville, it wasn’t fifteen minutes and the song was on the radio. Thanks, I had made it without crying up until then.
My heart swells with pride when I think of that little baby I brought home from the hospital almost 21 years ago, his silly little words like (kupie, bangdy bangdy, and huck boo), his goodnight hugs and his love for music. I miss that kid so much…..I miss the summer days when he was out riding his bike, being a kid. I long for those days that are never more to be……….
I am now beginning the senior year of my youngest Brent. What a joy and a delight this child has been. When he was little, we always enjoyed cooking together and baking. I would sit him on the counter and we would make cookies, (both boys actually), especially at Christmastime. Because Eric would accompany his dad to basketball games frequently, Brent and I were together a lot. We would say – it’s just you and me again. I remember the night I took him home from the hospital after having his tonsils removed at five years old. I strapped him in the seatbelt and he looked at me and in a raspy voice said – “It’s just you and me again, mom”. When he was four, he was my “date” for a valentine’s dinner at church. From that day on, he has always been my valentine. This past year, it was his first prom and what did I do? Snatched him away and we danced the first dance to My Funny Valentine. For Mother’s Day, I came home to a drawn bubble bath, a beautiful flower and a video collage of me and him to the tune of My Funny Valentine……my boys will make great husbands one day.
Another thing we did when he was little – we had a game that we played. One day I said to him, Brent – you are the apple of my eye and the puddin’ in my pie! He thought that was so funny! So we started thinking of ways to say that to each other. One day he was the chocolate in my chips and then I was the mayonnaise on his bread! Love it, miss it. So so cute. You should write a book someday with all your ways of saying ‘you’re the apple of my eye’. He loved riding his little 3 wheel power wheels motorcycle and would always pretend that he was going to church or Donalds. (McDonald’s). So imaginative – he had a little doll named Bonda and a make believe boy named Michael that he played with. I used to ask him as a toddler how much do you love mommy and he would spread his arms out wide and say this much! During potty training one day, I said – Brent Matthew you are cute! He replied – I know! I laughed and laughed. Whenever we went to the grocery store, he would sit in the buggy and we would tell each other knock knock jokes. Frank? Frank who? Frank you very much! No matter how often he heard it he always laughed.
Brent loves music as well and he has chosen drums as his instrument of passion. After a couple of years on an acoustic set, we bought him an electric set. I loved seeing him play drums with his brother on the piano and thoroughly enjoyed doing worship with my two boys, the loves of my life. Last year, when I returned to work from lunch and got the call from the State Police and was told my son had been in a bad accident, my heart sank. A mother’s worst nightmare come true. I never want to go through that again. The pain, suffering and humiliation that child went through was something I would not wish on my worst enemy! But he made it and he is fabulous today.
Earlier this year, he had his heart broken and my heart was broken too! How do you fix that? As a mom, I felt so helpless! I wanted to see him smile and be happy again. I am so proud of Brent and his passion for music and God. I love watching him in the marching band and play drumset. I am looking forward for a great year for him this year, not looking forward to him leaving in just about twelve months from now……
He is a terrific young man who loves God, has a passion for life, for music, for excellence. I could not be any more proud than I am right now. Thank you Jesus for two awesome blessings!
Nine months from now, I will be sitting in an auditorium, watching pics of the 2010 graduates as toddlers and seeing my “valentine” graduate. Then it will be off to Nashville once again…….this time, I may have to stay!
Fast forward EIGHT YEARS! YIKES!
Now that we are back to the future – 2017 – I can hardly believe eight years have passed since I wrote this originally. So many things have happened. Brent went onto graduate high school and was inducted into the National Honor Society, won the highest leadership award in Marching Band, took his drumline to a state championship and went off to college just like that. Since then, he has graduated college, and is still in Nashville pursuing a great career in sales, about to move into a new place and living his life. Eric graduated college six years ago and is doing great in commercial real estate and is pursuing a master’s degree in business.
I had no idea ten years ago, when my empty nest journey began, that I would go through all that I have with and without my boys. The emotions of not being a hands on mom any longer, not being needed on a daily basis – that was a tough one! There was actually a season I called the “mourning of motherhood.” When you are a mom daily for 21+ years and all of a sudden you’re not – it’s tough. I was not prepared for that!
Today, I am happy to say that there has been adjustment and the mourning period is gone. Oh, trust me, there are days that I would give anything for my kids to be little again! There are days I remember something that I would like to go back and change! There are days when I miss their faces and hugs. There are days…… However, I am so thankful for the relationship I have with my boys. We communicate often and visit when we can. Just two weeks ago we met Brent half way from here to Nashville so we could just hang for a few, and thankfully Eric came home earlier this month to visit for a couple days with his wonderful girlfriend Amy.
Life goes fast. One day you are going to little league games and the next a graduation. I have had two college graduations and the last one was three years ago. Time flies! And although my boys will always be my “boys” they have now become men and I have had to take yet another step back and give them space. Mommas, take heart, it does get easier with time. And let me say that while it is hard to let go, the rewards of letting go far outweigh trying to hold on. We must always be willing to grow and change and adapt to life. Always be willing to self-reflect! And as you respect the maturing of your children, hopefully, they will continue to respect you. Regardless, as parents we never stop teaching our children. It just takes a different form. How you live your life and how you treat your children even as adults will shape your relationship with them in the coming years. This is important to remember.
I look to the future with great hope in my heart and wonderful expectation of awesome things for both of them. I look forward to many more visits and perhaps we will even live closer one day! But until then, I trust the Lord. I gave them to Him when they were babies, there is no reason to take them back now.
(this song encapsulates my heart for my boys so well…..)