Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Penultimate Peril

One of our favorite words around here is ‘penultimate’ – why I’m not sure. I have no recollection if my two sons and I ever got to Lemony Snicket’s The Penultimate Peril, one of a series which we read individually and occasionally collectively when they were young.

Today is my very own ‘penultimate peril.’

Friday morning my youngest son moves into the dorms here at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  I will be absent from this event, as I was from freshman orientation, due to a doctor’s appointment. I offered, actually begged, to be allowed to attend the afternoon session. But my pitiful parental pleas fell on disinterested teenage ears. This made me absurdly proud and morbidly disappointed at the same time.

I got over it.

All-day meetings will keep college department chair husband busy and not part of the moving in experience either. Future freshman did say if I wanted to help carry stuff up seven flights of stairs to his room, I could tag along.

No thanks. There are elevators, but I have claustrophobia.

His older brother has been in Seoul since early February at his first ‘big boy job’ out of college. He’s currently making plans for his future, none of which seem to involve returning to this continent for an extended period.

I miss him like crazy, but he’s been on the go practically since his forceps delivery twenty-three years ago this December.

Son number two is only going two minutes away, as previously chronicled, but it’s not the minutes – or the miles – but the milestone.

The eldest of four siblings, I only know how to be the first to venture out into the world, the first to get married, the first (barely) to produce a grandchild. 

So with my unconventional firstborn, who practically had his permanent travelin’ bags packed before he had a driver’s license, I adapted a certain stoic stance toward parenting a child infused with wanderlust.

Now it’s time for my youngest, fiercely independent in his own ways, to leave home – even though home will be less than five minutes away. My mom has lived with us since this son, who turned 18 last week, was three. She and I know we’re going to miss him.  A lot.

Recently I read two great pieces on sending children to college, one published in a women’s magazine and one by my friend Diane Tarantini.

I miss my sons because I like them as well as love them. Sure, this one will be close by, but he’s started that journey to adulthood that no parent could possibly wish a child wouldn’t make.

So come Friday and future Fridays, Grandma and I will rattle around in the suddenly empty house – steadfastly refusing my husband’s hints we could get a puppy.  I don’t need anything to take care of now just because both sons will be out of the house.

Besides if I got a dog, it’d probably just run away, not from home, but to something.

Just like my sons.


  1. Bear up, mom. It would be interesting to think of the blog post your sons would write if they reflected on their mom's journey for the past 23+ years! We've just gone through the same kind of separation - son #1 now married and in Arizona, writing, playing blues on stage, and paying bills thanks to Sam's Club. Son #2 - newly married -is enjoying success after just a year at ESPN, in Connecticut. We miss them a lot, and for the same reason as my favorite line in YOUR post - we like them as well as love them.

    The only real solace is that the same bitterwsweet feelings YOU have are there, hidden, in THEM as well. They know they need to move on, but they'll treasure your support and friendship forever.

    Keep writing and sharing. And for God's sake (and the sake of some dog on death row at a local shelter) GET THE PUPPY!!!

  2. Dear Mike and my dear son Erik:
    NO puppy...for now...8-)