With four kids age 18 and over, along with a new baby, you'd think that when one of them leaves home for college, it would be an easy adjustment. Not so. I returned this week from taking my youngest son, Jesse, to his new home at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford, Ohio and am having a tough time dealing with the loss.
I want to say to myself, "Don't be so melodramatic John. All of your kids have gone off on their own, in different ways and in different places. What's so different about this one?" There is a difference. He's the baby.
He's the baby of the bunch - with three older siblings and now a new baby sister - and has seen everyone grow up and here it is his turn. But, most difficult for me is the fact that when I was divorced 11 years ago and left out there, as a single dad, still trying to exert some influence over three teenagers who lived several blocks away with their mother, Jesse was always with me.
On the Tuesday and Thursday nights, Saturdays and Sundays when the kids were "with me," Jesse was always there. When his siblings got their driver's licenses and went off with their friends, Jesse was with me. When I went to my softball games, Jesse was with me (even when he got a black eye when a ball was thrown over my head and hit him in the face). When I had to march in the Evanston Fourth of July parade, Jesse was with me (along with the famous person he was lucky to pose with).
Jesse and the ex-Gov.
When my parents had to move from their 30-year home, pack up all of their belongings and find a new place to scale-down and move into, Jesse was with me - not to just help me, but to take over and take the lead.
Whenever I needed a buffer with family, friends, business people or in any uncomfortable situation, Jesse was with me. When I couldn't build a race car for the YMCA Guides, Jesse was with me and my friend Jim who built the car based on our "design." When we tried to sell my 2003 Saturn, Jesse was with me, talking up the car and trying to make a deal.
Whenever I've needed help with my cell phone, pc, laptop, or any other electronics, Jesse has been with me, even if it is through some kind of electronic communication. As he prepared to give his speech at his high school graduation in June, Jesse was with me as his nerves balled up and I helped him put his thoughts into words.
When baby Sasha was born in February, Jesse was with me and my wife, celebrating the arrival of his new sister and then she was with him at Jesse's going-away party last week.
I could go on and on about how this kid, whether he liked it or not, spent hours and hours by my side, but I'm surprised by my own reaction to all of this. My wife asked me while I was driving home from Ohio if I was emotional. I told her that I didn't have time to think about my emotions while I was trying to figure out how to navigate around the closed Ohio Route 27 at Lotus, Ohio which my Google Maps didn't prepare me for. But, having been home for a day or so now and thinking about my loss and Jesse's gain, yes I am emotional.
When I left Jesse at his dorm a few nights ago, I drove up a road in Ohio before getting a bite to eat and came across a farm road with a railroad track cutting across a field as the sun was setting. I realized, as I parked my car to look out over the scene, that the sun will continue to set and the trains will continue to roll and the farmers will continue to harvest their grain, and Jesse will continue to be with me - wherever he is.