What Comes Next

I’ve been busy having my midlife crisis. The times a certainly are a changin’ at my house. My oldest daughter, to whom I have been attached cord, breast, and always heart, is graduating from our state’s university in less than a month. In July, she’ll move five hours away to attend medical school. My purely sweet youngest daughter, who needed me so much when she was ill, is now a thriving university student who is making her natural break from home and talking marriage with her long-time boyfriend. While I’m sad that the hands-on mothering stage of my life is coming to a close, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m in complete awe of both of them, and in total wonderment of the natural progression of something that I didn’t experience. They are easing gently into adulthood without skipping any steps.

My entrance into adulthood felt abrupt. Its evolution seemed to move from my mother being sick, to my mother dying, to my father selling our family home and moving in with his girlfriend. The fact that I was a junior in college without a place to go home to on weekends, holidays and summers didn’t faze my father who was of the old school mindset of “18 and out.” While my life certainly wasn’t as difficult as the lives of some, I found myself thrust into adulthood with an incomplete copy of life’s survival manual.

Now as my daughters grow past the age when I became motherless, I marvel at what comes next. I experience with them, and through them, what my mother and I didn’t. I will see them walk across stages to get diplomas and possibly down aisles to get married. I will be privy to their life plans, listen to their worries, and guide them in solving their problems. They will never wonder where they will spend a holiday, or feel a mournful longing when a coworker speaks of “going back home” for the weekend.

As I write this I am sad, sad for my mother who so wanted me, and sad for the girl I was when I lost her. Yet, in my gloom I feel the distinct joy than one can only feel when they have been given a gift most though-out and meaningful. It is the gift of watching my daughters reach adulthood whole and prepared. The gift of watching the apron strings between us gently thin from love and wear, and dangle as ties between mother and child eventually must. It is the gift of watching them stand on the precipice of adulthood confident that their first steps won’t be into a swirling abyss of the unknown. But mostly, it’s the gift of knowing that if a page is missing from their life’s survival manual, they have the skills to rewrite it, and if they are unsure of the correct words, I’m just a phone call away.