Facebook followers will know that on the evening of the very last day of school I answered the shouts of my son who called out that the rooster had killed one of the new chicks, took a misstep on the concrete bricks that substitute for stairs at the back door, rolled my right ankle and plunged to the ground, landing hard on my left elbow. It was a most inauspicious start to summer vacation. The days that followed continued the same trajectory – downhill. The next day my ankle and foot were weirdly swollen giving my leg the appearance of a lopsided elephant appendage. And putting any weight on it caused considerable pain. My elbow turned a dark rainbow of somber colors, but more concerning was my inability to straighten my arm, confidently grasp or lift an object or make a twisting motion with my hand. The walk-in clinic dutifully took my $25 copay, confirmed neither my ankle nor elbow was fractured and cheerfully prescribed rest, ice, compression and elevation.
I followed the regimen to the best of my ability but there were things to do – schlep water, weed the garden, work on the new high security chicken coop meant to keep out the fearless and determined predator that was wreaking havoc on my flock, install goat fence, and the usual cleaning, cooking and chauffeuring kids around. So perhaps I did not rest as much as I should have. Nevertheless I did expect to be healed by now (2 weeks later). My ankle is about 75% of normal but my elbow, forearm, wrist and hand are closer to 50% – still weak and painful. I guess this is all part of the ‘getting old isn’t for sissies’ even though I’m not as old as I feel.
A week after my misstep, I hobbled up the steps to the college dorm where my daughter was whisked off in one direction to register for the summer program and I and the other parents were ushered into another building to wait. The first step in disconnecting the umbilical cord, prying child from parent, sending them off on the path to freedom and responsibility. The kids took off with a spring in their steps and never a look back while many of the adults lingered and loitered until their child was gone from sight before turning towards the waiting area. The promised breakfast and air conditioning were not as much as a draw as their retreating son or daughter. Me, I needed coffee and a place to elevate my throbbing ankle so I didn’t linger. Helicopter parenting has never been a problem of mine.
Several hours later, all the paperwork completed, ID photos taken, meager possessions unpacked in the cell like dorm room, I bid my daughter goodbye and hobbled back down the steps and across the street to the parking lot. I didn’t cry, she didn’t cry. Unlike some of the girls who shouted at their parents to leave already she didn’t have to push me out the door. I feel confident of my daughter’s level of self-sufficiency, resilience, and responsibility, and let’s face it, realistically I’m only 20-25 minutes away in case of a crisis.
When I left home at 17 to go to college I got on a plane and flew over 2,000 miles away. There was no email, texting or cell phones (a call was long distance – expensive) and mail took 3 days to get from home to school. I was also responsible and self-sufficient. Which isn’t to say it was always easy – in fact my first year in school was anything but easy and I’m sure (now) that my mom ached with every setback or stumbling block I encountered. I didn’t think that at the time I supposed – just reached out for support or comfort or a shoulder to cry on. I never really considered how she felt about my flinging myself from the nest and flying like a migratory bird to the other end of the country.
My nestling hasn’t gone so far and she’ll be back between summer and fall semesters for 3 weeks. We email each other and I’m dropping by a care package this weekend (she says food is expensive and she’s trying to ration so naturally I’ll send fruit and cookies and her favorite tea). She’s close, but she’s still gone. She doesn’t have to check in now to let me know where she’s going and who she’s with. She doesn’t have to call if she will be late getting home. She’s not here asking advice, confiding thoughts, making silly puns, helping in the kitchen or with outside chores (where she had taken on a lot of the heavy lifting), borrowing the car and making me wait up until she (and it) get home safely. I sometimes find myself thinking that I need to go pick her up, or turning to tell her something before I recall that she’s gone.
It’s been hot, terribly hot. The house collects and stores heat like an oven and the temperatures easily rise above 90 degrees inside most days. There are frequent thunderstorms, which combined with the heat, make it difficult to get a lot done outside and in the summer there’s always a lot to do outside. My 14-year old got a job with a local baker who works out of his house out in the boonies so I spend a lot of time running her to and from work (some days she works 6 hours but other days it’s only 2 so I’ve barely gotten home before I need to turn around and go get her). It’s good experience for her and money that will go towards various school expenses and clothing and I wasn’t able to find summer work myself so it’s time well spent. But between everything – injuries, heat, storms, losing my best helpers – I have a feeling this summer will be unproductive and uncomfortable.