When They’re Gone

My kids and I had an interesting discussion the other night, one that I hadn’t instigated, and I am not particularly sure how we even got to where we did.

Abbi before graduation
Abbi before graduation

My oldest daughter, Abbi, is leaving home in just a few weeks to start college.  It’s hard, sure, and it’s a new thing for Abbi.  She’s excited, happy, and looking forward to where she might be in the next year, two, four even.  She wants to learn everything there is to know about her chosen profession and is well prepared for the fact she’ll likely be working in horribly crappy jobs to make ends meet in order to do what she loves.

She’s okay with that.

But that’s not the discussion.

After Andrea, my wife, passed away two years ago, we weren’t exactly looking ahead to two and a half years later.  We certainly weren’t looking any farther ahead than tomorrow.  Hell, an hour from now was about as far as we could go.  Decisions we made then pushed us to tomorrow.  We did what we had to do just to survive.

But I think seeing the future ahead of her, Abbi started talking, along with the other kids, about what will happen to me in the coming years.

“You could go anywhere,” Abbi tells me.  “You could be a reporter for the BBC!  You’d LOVE that!”

She’s right, I would.  The lone American (or one of them) working in the UK for a news organization.  They hadn’t considered the UK’s visa system, work visas, whether or not my lack of an accent would detract from the news and . . . well, yeah, there’s whether or not they’d actually hire me that I have to consider as well.  But sure, fun to dream.

Hannah and Sam
Hannah and Sam

“You could tour the country in a band, like you’ve always wanted to,” says Hannah, the guitar player of the kids.  Sure, and I’d absolutely love and adore to do that.  What they don’t consider is that in 8 years I’ll be 51 and still have college to pay for in each of their cases.  The boys are double tuition at the same time.  That might be just a little hard to accomplish, but if I could do it . . . I’m there!

“I could just leave and backpack Europe like a 20-year-old,” I told them.  They weren’t buying that one.  Funny thing is, though, that I’m more likely to do that than any other ideas the kids have considered.  “I would grow my hair real long and wear a black leather jacket and walk my way across the continent.”
“Sure, Dad, long hair” says my oldest.  She hates when I bring that up.  “Sure!  Those young European women love the long hair right?”  (For the record, European readers, I don’t think that, but go with the theme here for a minute)  I look out of the corner of my eye to see my daughter’s reaction.  It’s akin to when I made the mistake of saying Olivia Wilde is “hot.”  A glare only her mother seemed able to muster until now.
“Yeah…sure, Dad.  What happens when I say I need help and I’m broke and can you come help me!”
“I’ll tell Monique I’m sorry but it was a fling and I have to go, leaving the small cottage in the French countryside and racing to the Paris airport to fly home for you.”

I won’t repeat what my daughter said in mixed company.

In a way, though, this gets to the heart of a matter that none of the kids have or want to think about.  The amount of time it will take before my kids are all out of the house is eight years.  It’s simultaneously a short amount of time and infuriatingly long.  It’s too short to do everything I want to do with the kids.  It’s also kind of odd to think I might spend that alone and then strike out by myself on some new adventure.  They just haven’t anticipated that may not be the case . . . and that’s okay, none of us know what’s on the horizon.

The kids are excited to see what’s coming in the future, but I don’t like to think too hard about what’s coming.  It’s not depressing, but it is stressful.  

Me with "Dot", my green Clapton Strat
Me with “Dot”, my green Clapton Strat

Meanwhile, I’ll have to start re-stringing my green Clapton Stratocaster.  You never know, Clapton may need an opener in 8 years.

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