I hate driving to the airport. I hate driving to the airport in the rain. I hate driving to the airport in the rain while I’m crying, but that’s what I’m doing: dropping off my son as he relocates to Nashville to begin his music career. This major transition, fast on the heels of my move from our former family home to a small apartment, brings the passage of time into sharp focus. I wish I could say the same for the road.
A strong storm moves up the coast as we make our way to La Guardia; precipitation is upon us. We have experienced a dearth of rain of late and the region is desperate and grateful for this. Not me. Because I hate driving to the airport in the rain.
As excited as I may be that my firstborn newly minted college graduate is leaving the nest – flying off literally – to follow his dream of becoming a successful singer-songwriter, I will miss him. Dustin is wise beyond his 22 years. Erudite and evolved, he has a wickedly dry sense of humor and keenly honed creativity. We share a similar sensibility for art, literature, and music. He is my best and worst critic.
The air has hung heavy and humid with the advent of his departure. The storm will relieve the weight in the air as surely as tears will release the pressure of anticipation. I’ve promised myself not to cry until he waves at me on his way through the security line which will keep me from doing any more than seeing him into the ticket counter area, but it was a rough night and is proving to be a tough morning. By 8 am, I am grumpy and ready for lunch.
In the car, we talk about relationships and I’m lamenting the dearth of eligible, sane men within ten years either way of my age, and voicing my concern about my ability to ever be in a healthy one.
“That’s just nonsense, Mom,” Dustin says dismissively. “You are just creating a self-fulfilling prophecy to rationalize and justify why you avoid relationships. You just need to stop and put yourself out there more.”
“But you just don’t know the numbers, Dustin. It’s not like college. I am looking for the proverbial needle…” but before I can finish, he cuts me off.
“You are creating your own reality.”
This hurts, partly because I think he’s being a naïve, completely insensitive young man, and partly because I know he’s right. Either way, it triggers the dam break, and I drive with my already clouded vision further blurred by tears. I hate driving to the airport in the rain while I’m crying.
The actual goodbye is uneventful. I have déjà vu, having been in this spot twice recently, first to send him to Edinburgh for his junior semester abroad, and then to send him to Dublin for an Iowa Writer’s Summer Workshop. He was fragile and vulnerable for the former, and only a little less so for the latter. I am thankful that now he is fit and eager to start his life. Of the two of us, I only wonder about what all this means for my life, not his.
We check his duffel bag and guitar case. To meet the airline’s baggage weight requirements he needs to take out the copy of the new Franzen novel that I gave him as a farewell gift.
“You can read it on the plane,” I tell him, trying to be light and not think about the impending goodbye.
“Yup. I love you, mom,” he says as his 6’3” frame envelopes me in a real hug.
“I love you, too, baby. All the best. I wish you all the best.”
He navigates the mostly empty maze leading to security, and never looks back.
I do not cry as I leave the terminal, nor as I drop my sweater in a deep puddle, nor as I struggle with the parking lot machine, which will stubbornly not accept either my parking ticket or credit card.
I am exhausted and numb and make a mental note to sort out my emotions and make some kind of a life plan soon and, oh, to pick up lemons and cucumbers, after I nap. Which I do (the nap, not the life plan) as soon as I get home.
My iPhone’s glass-chime text alert wakes me:
“Just got in. All is well!” The eaglet has landed.
Indeed, all is well. I stayed dry on the ride home; the rain and the tears had stopped, and I knew my way.