Quite early this beautiful morning Gabe and I flew into the sunrise toward DIA, racing the clock to catch the plane. My youngest at fifteen has never flown alone until today. After two planes, one long delay, one two hour bus ride and one another, he is now officially off the grid. Tonight my younger son sleeps under the stars on an Outward Bound Heroic Journey with twenty-five other grieving teens in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area outside of Ely, Minnesota. I don’t even remember a time when he’s been out of ear shot, or text range. When I got the email, “Well, they’re off, and we usually don’t hear from them during the week, so… just relax and we’ll see you on Sunday”, my immediate response was a sense of relief he’d arrived safely. Hours later, there’s been no “what’s for dinner?” bounding up the stairs, no eye roll when I answer and, knowing that it will be that way for a week, it suddenly feels so different than when he’s at a friend’s.
Absence rings through the night air as I sink into the idea that he is officially off the grid. How strange in this modern day to have your child out there in the big wide world without an electronic tether. I wonder if he’s homesick, if he’s scared, and I don’t know if that’s out of my deep concern or a deeper sense of wanting to be missed. I worry and hope he’s warm, dry and has a belly full. I smile because he’ll learn to read a compass, and I’ll learn to navigate my way by the heavens. I take a moment to feel the space between us, the silence, and I know this is something I’ll have to get used to.
I’m practicing, feeling the fullness in the emptiness. Last week the cat came home after three days, very sick, and he went off again to spend three days at the vet. The house was not the same without him. This week is Gabriel’s turn for a solo adventure (god I hope it’s better than the cat’s) and the house is not the same without him, either. Spring has been a time of adjustment as we lean into the first year of life without their father, Dane. But change comes bearing unseen gifts, and broken hearts can be open hearts. Softer.
This is the stepping off place, the launch pad where he blasts into the world and I am earthbound on my own wilderness adventure, canoeing through the unfamiliar waters and portaging over time. Somewhere out there in this great big world lays my baby boy, drifting to sleep to the lullaby of mosquitoes buzzing. We’ll both make adjustments this week, and learn more than we can remember. But my, won’t we have good stories?