By Shelley Murphy
This summer started with my older son moving across the country upon his college graduation and my younger son moving home from his freshman dorm.
So it’s fitting as summer comes to a close it marks the final move and the end of duct-taped boxes and back-breaking chores. My boys’ moves throughout the summer and each ensuing painful goodbye felt like slowly tugging at a Band-Aid.
Before my youngest son’s move home for the summer, he and his roommates found an apartment near their college campus and signed a yearlong lease commencing in August. His freshman year behind him, my son looked forward to a carefree summer.
His summer plans included reuniting with hometown friends for road trips, weekend concerts and sporting events. Neither of us could’ve predicted a week after arriving home he’d be in a leg cast that would change both our summers.
Sidelined by doctor-ordered bedrest, most days my son felt isolated and bored. His nocturnal friends appeared when the sun set, but the days were long. I savored passing the idle hours with my son—we hadn’t spent so many summer days alone since his older brother started preschool.
After a couple weeks of convalescing, my son and I started frequenting his favorite restaurants. We shared lunches and lively banter about everything from funny observations to political opinions.
As the calendar crept toward his moving day, I realized this summer is likely the last we’d spend so much time together under one roof. Soon our summertime separations will grow longer, and my son’s absences will become more frequent. If he’s like his older brother, my son’s sophomore year of college will lead to summer internships, jobs and travel.
A few days before the big move, my son and I stood in his bedroom packing his possessions. Boxes and bags littered the floor of his bedroom and clothes covered his furniture, yet his room felt painfully empty.
Sensing the void I said, “I’m beginning to miss you.” My son looked confused and said, “But I’m still here.” He reached across the piles of clutter for a quick hug and I squeezed him tight.
Too soon the moving day arrived, and we loaded the U-Haul truck for the drive to his apartment.
It took hours and countless trips up and down stairs to unload his belongings, but by late afternoon I had only one task remaining. I know my son’s capable of making his own bed, but on moving day I like to be the one who tightly tucks the sheets and pulls together the bedding.
As I fluffed the pillows similar to the ones on his bed at home—the ones he insists he doesn’t use yet I find him curled among—I heard him say from his doorway, “Mom, I don’t need that many pillows.” I convinced him to try it my way, hoping when he lay his head on one of those pillows that first night in the new apartment his bed would feel familiar like home.
My job done, it came time for me to leave. My son and his roommates were exhausted after moving all day but mustered the energy to celebrate their first night in their first apartment.
I wished them a fun night, but cautioned not too much fun, and then my son walked me to the U-Haul.
Again, like the afternoon last August when I walked away from my son in his dorm room, I found myself fighting back tears. When we reached the truck my son and I said our final goodbyes and hugged. This time we both squeezed a little tighter.
I’ve survived the week since the melancholy move and am adjusting to the deafening quiet and lunches without my younger son. But, walking by his bedroom, I still expect to see him propped amid the pillows on his bed, video controller in hand and cell phone tucked between his shoulder and ear.
After a summer of sendoffs the Band-Aid’s finally been ripped off, but it still stings.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 17 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the SC Times since 2006.