We'd scarcely pulled out of the driveway when I saw silent tears falling from the corners of Jon's eyes. He would tell me later that Caleb's young life flashed before him as we drove down the hill away from home. The memories of driving him to sports practices, seminary and other activities played in his mind. The harsh reality of our son leaving our home rest heavy on our hearts.
We had spent the previous days packing up his belongings. We sorted through what he wanted to take with him and what could be left behind. I struggle to find the words to describe the emotions of this moment. Sad? Anxious? Denial? Excited? Yep, all of that and more.
Months earlier, Caleb had received a Super Bowl patch that he'd hoped to add to his beloved Seahawks jersey. The night before we left to take him to BYU-I, Jon decided he'd try ironing it on for him. Seconds later, both the iron and Caleb's jersey were ruined. The massive hole left in the jersey seemed the perfect metaphor for my heart.
We made it to Rexburg on Friday morning. We had just enough time to move Caleb into his new apartment and set up his room before he headed off to freshman orientation.
His apartment is so nice--spacious with plenty of storage.
In-apartment laundry and an extra refrigerator were luxuries I never had in college.
Caleb and his new roommate, Matt, who is from Georgia:
The freshman were put into "I groups" for orientation, which began in the center courts of the BYUI Center. Here they are playing get-to-know-you games:
As we walked through campus, I reflected on Caleb's middle school and high school schedule pick-up days. On those two occasions, he seemed too little to be making those big life steps. I had the distinct thought that for the first time in his life, we were arriving at a major life milestone and he looked like be belonged.
BYU-I is a special place. The campus is beautiful and "The Spirit of Ricks" undoubtedly resides there. Though I dreaded the empty room left at my house in Auburn, I continually felt that there was no other place I'd want Caleb to be.
He attended his new student ward on Sunday and then we spent the evening playing cards in our hotel lobby. He was set to begin classes Monday morning and we were planning to head home early. The girls had stayed back at home and though I really didn't want to leave Caleb, it was time. The inevitable moment of goodbye had arrived.
"I guess you guys probably want to get to bed," Caleb surmised. It was obvious that he dreaded--even feared--this moment as much as we did.
"Yep," was Jon's reply.
We'd spent the weekend, along with my parents, helping him get acquainted with campus and purchasing necessities. We'd tried to think of everything to make him comfortable, but his anxiety was palpable. Still, he was so brave. I was trying to brave, too.
I felt a wave of nausea come over me as I stood up from the table in the hotel lobby. When Jon asked Caleb if he wanted to drive one last time, the eruption of emotion started bubbling to the surface and I knew it would soon come spewing from my eyes.
We got out of the car in the parking lot of Caleb's new apartment and I grabbed my son not wanting to let him go, yet knowing that this was exactly what I'd hoped, prayed and worked so dang hard for.
As I hugged him, my ear rest directly on his rapidly pounding heart. He kept clearing his throat to keep his emotions and tears in check. We'd been teasing him for months that we planned to FaceTime him every day and he was always adamant that we should NOT do that! Every day was WAY too often, he'd insist. But here in this moment, Caleb suddenly had a change of heart and he told us we could FaceTime him as much as we wanted. We talked to him for several minutes and assured him that we would be there to support him and that the occasional failure was normal, permissible and to be expected. We told him to remember to maintain a relationship with the Savior and that his grandmother would always be there to help from the other side.
When it could not be prolonged any longer, we got in the car and he walked in the dark toward the steps of his apartment. Jon started to drive away when I shouted, "Wait! I need to watch him walk up." When he got to the top of the stairs, Jon let out one quick honk of the horn. Caleb turned and waved one last time and then he was gone.
I cried for quite some time that night and intermittently all the next day as we drove home.
My first little birdie has officially left the nest and he took a large piece of my heart with him.