Monday, May 25, 2015

He Waved at Us Through the Trees

A week ago yesterday, the youngest of my five sons graduated from the University of Notre Dame.  He's a baby no longer--which I should have grasped when he turned 21, I suppose, more than a year ago.  Or even more so when he hit 22 in early 2015.  One can hardly be considered a baby at 22--after all, that's the age my husband and I were when we exchanged our wedding vows!
But now, it's official: he's a grown-up--a college graduate and also a newly-minted officer in one of the fine branches of the US military.  I would love to post pictures of his commissioning ceremony last Saturday, the day before his commencement, with one of his older brothers doing the honors of leading him through the recitation of his oath, his dad and me attaching his shoulder boards to his dress uniform, and another older brother pinning his rank onto his beret.  But I'm going to refrain, as I've heard that in these scary times in which we live, it can be dangerous to post pictures of loved ones in uniform on the Internet.  Needless to say, however, his father and I are inordinately proud.

It was wonderful for our youngest boy to have three of his older brothers, with their wives and children, in attendance over the weekend out in South Bend.  My husband and I rented a large, lovely home not far from campus so that we could all stay together comfortably, and it was a very special and memorable time for our family.

Here's our youngest son (the man of the hour) in the middle--standing outside the house he shared this past school year with seven other guys, flanked by son #1 (holding his new baby daughter, City Girl) and son #3 (G-Man's daddy).  There was a party there on Friday night, with all the housemates and their families.  Chipotle was consumed in large quantities.
And here's the graduate with son #4, right after the graduation ceremony. 


All of our grandchildren were there for their uncle's big celebration; all, that is, except for the one who is still in utero.  Son #2, his wife Ginger, and their wee unborn baby were unable to travel from VA to be with us; when it's playoff weekend and you're the defensive coordinator for a high school lacrosse team, sometimes you just can't miss a game.  (And bonus: our teacher/coach-son's team advanced to the finals and ended up winning their conference championship this past week!)

Love me a good family get-together photo op, know what I'm sayin'?  However, getting a picture with our three oldest granddaughters is always a challenge.  It's like herding kittens.  But sitting on the stoop at their uncle's house, we tried our darndest.
The girls tend to be a bit camera-shy; but not G-Man (a.k.a. "Bubba" or "Bubbs").  He's always ready for his close-up. 
Hey Bubbs, Popeye called.  He wants his forearms back.
And my daughters-in-law are all beautiful and photogenic.

Daughters-in law Regina (wife of son #1 and mother of four little girls under
 the age of 4) and Preciosa (wife of son #3 and G-Man's mommy).
 
The cutie next to me is Braveheart (wife of son #4), whose brother to the
left of her joined us for the weekend.
I don't know if I've ever seen my youngest son look more handsome, or more ready to take on the
world, than he did last Sunday.
 
 
Here he is with his dad, a proud alumnus of the class of 1980, in front of Notre Dame's iconic golden dome.
 

 
Sometimes, I think I've been around the blogosphere too long already, with over 1,000 posts in my archives since I started out in 2011.  For several years, I blogged almost daily; but I've been having trouble keeping up that pace lately--and trouble believing that I still have anything to offer that can't be found on a million other far more entertaining and engaging sites.
 
But I guess this been-there/done-that grandmother does have something to share with blog readers, the bulk of whom appear to be young moms in the throes of training their babies to sleep through the night and their toddlers to use the potty, and who are struggling through tears as they send their little ones off to kindergarten.  I can share what it's like to be at what seems like (but isn't!) the end of motherhood, when the school days are over and all the chicks have left the nest for good.  I can share what it's like to welcome new children into your family--in my testosterone-heavy household, that means new daughters only; but many of you will welcome both sons and daughters to your folds.  I can share what it's like to know that you have done your job well (or as well as you could, with the graces God gave you)...and that although that feels wonderful, it also means that your children--those precious souls for whom you lived and breathed for decades, who gave your life such purpose--will not go to sleep under your roof at night on a regular basis anymore.  Indeed, what seemed, when they were babies and toddlers, to be the stuff of sci-fi fiction, will be your new reality: you will not know where they are a lot of the time, or exactly what they're doing, every single moment.  And you will have to let go, hoping that in the way-too-short time you were allotted to shepherd them to adulthood they have learned by your example and guidance what it means to be a child of God and a soldier for Christ.
 
I can remember my youngest son (the strapping, 6'2" college graduate) as a dear little boy, as clearly as if it was yesterday.  He was a real homebody and very attached to his parents, and whenever his dad and I had to leave him behind at the house (in the good care of his older brothers), he had a routine that never varied.  He would stand by the dining room window that faces our driveway, and as we backed the car out we would roll down our windows and stick our arms out to wave at him, even if it was the dead of winter and freezing cold outside.  As we drove down the street, if we looked back at the house we could see him standing there framed in the window, waving back.  He would remind us each time we left to "wave at him through the trees," meaning we should keep waving until we got far enough from the house that he could no longer see the car through the trees.
 
"Waving through the trees" was our special tradition.
 
So as we were getting in our car on Sunday evening to begin the long trek back to NH, leaving him behind to pack up his things, say good-bye to his friends, and head home himself two days later, we asked him if he was going to wave at us through the trees.  "Of course!" he replied.
 
This is the last view we had of him as we pulled away from his off-campus house in South Bend.

And he did wave at us through the trees.  He waved until we could no longer see him in our rear view mirrors, standing there framed in the doorway.
 
So that's another thing I can share with young mothers on the front end of that amazing roller coaster ride called parenting: lots will change, but some things never will.  And your babies will always be your babies.






14 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful post and great pictures!!

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    1. It was such a great weekend--and I'm so happy we were able to make it special for him. He deserves it!

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  2. I am just a big ole ball of tears over here on the eve my son turns three and I'm feeling like that is already too old! What a perfect perfect blog post. Along with the news that Son #2 and Ginger are expecting. I don't know how I missed that!

    Please keep blogging. It's so great to read different walks of life. I love being able to blog know you and your family and pray for you guys.

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    1. Oh, you are so sweet. And three is too old--I know! It all goes so fast.

      I guess I didn't ever officially announce that another grandchild was on the way--I thought I had!

      And thanks for praying for my family. That alone is reason enough to keep the blog going! :)

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  3. Congratulations to your son and your whole family! What an accomplishment. :)

    The Starving Inspired
    The Starving Inspired

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    1. Thanks--yes, we're very proud of him and all our boys.

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  4. Oh my he is looking 'all grown up', and I know he is but I agree, for us Mumas they will always be 'our children'. So bittersweet, well done to mama and papa and welll done to son 5.
    and yes you do have much to offer blogosphere, I've been so touched and INSPIRED with your journey of welcoming your new daugthers of love into your life. and to see with your grandbabies that there is still plenty of love and life to be lived after they all leave the nest. With mine beginning to leave rapidly its a solace.

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    1. This means so much to me, truly. And now that we're back home and I'm back in a more normal routine, I find I'm feeling a lot more like writing. So I shall probably continue to blog--and I'm glad this little site brings some solace to other moms who are watching their babies grow up too fast!

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  5. Congratulations to all of you! And a new grandbaby on the way!!! How did I miss that? So exciting! Were you all in town a few weeks back? I could have sworn I saw you at our parish, and your son and his wife the next week (yes, I recognize them from your blog... Probably would be weird to introduce myself by saying, "Hi, your mom and I are internet friends!") - you have to come say hi next time you're in town!

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    1. Thanks! Yes, I forgot to announce that exciting news once we were given the green light to share it--just slipped it into today's post real casually. :)

      Yes, we were in your neck of the woods a few weeks ago; and we went to Sunday Mass at your church on May 9. (We had stopped to visit overnight with son #2 and his wife on our way north, after our four-month stay in Charlottesville with G-Man.) I don't remember seeing you that day. But the next time we're down there, I'll be sure to come and say hi if I see you!

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  6. Laura, I've been meaning to write you a comment on this post since it came out. I know that I (and I imagine a lot of people) think of babies when they contemplate becoming parents. And then that baby part is so fleeting, and then you feel overwhelmed, and then...well, you know. ;-) Parenthood is never what we're expecting, and yep, always changing. But certain foundational things remain. My oldest child is going to turn 10 this year, and while that is still pretty young, I do finally understand what my own parents would say to me and my sisters - that even though your children get older and eventually become adults, you as their parent don't see them as suddenly not needing you anymore. The need is different, certainly, that evolves constantly, but it's still there. This is a very touching post, thank you!

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    1. May they always need us and feel comfortable coming to us, right? No matter how old they get.

      It still touches me so much when our boys call with questions about finances for their dad, or about recipes for me; or when they ask us both how we handled different situations when they were babies/toddlers. It's true, the way they need you is always changing and evolving; but they definitely still do, even when they're all "grown-up."

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  7. Thank you for sharing this; I really needed to hear this today. And now I'm tearing up thinking of my baby growing up...

    Also, big congrats to you guys on another Notre Dame graduate! It's hard for me to believe it's been a whole FOUR years since I graduated. Go Irish!!

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    1. Hi, Tess. Thanks for stopping by! You were at Notre Dame when two of our sons were there (one who graduated in '09, the other in '10). They both started out in Carroll, but the older one was off-campus his junior and senior years, and the younger one moved off senior year.

      Wait until you're saying, "I can't believe it's been 35 years since I graduated!" That was my husband and me, just a few weekends ago when we went to his reunion. Yikes!!

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