It doesn’t matter how many times you tell yourself you are prepared for this, you never are. You can spend eighteen years saying, “someday, this day will come,” and remind yourself that it comes for every generation, and when it comes, while you will be moved by it, you won’t be overwhelmed. For most of us, including myself, this is an exercise in amusing futility. Because this day has come and I am overwhelmed, overjoyed, awed and otherwise utterly floored by it. My eldest nephew, my beautiful sister’s beautiful boy is graduating high school, the first of his grandparents’ grandchildren to do so.
I look at this tall, thin, quietly intelligent young man and still see hints of the chubby faced cherub that squealed and laughed while I acted like a buffoon to amuse him. The hints are buried deep, but still there, the solid foundation on which the rest of him rests. He has changed so much over the years, but in all the most important ways he remains the same. He has always been such a compassionate person, something my siblings have instilled, quite successfully, in all their children. Now that compassionate child is a compassionate adult.
The time has come, the day is here, and I find myself doing exactly what I told myself I would not: asking where all that time has gone. I do an OK job not regretting too much, not admonishing myself for all the time I could have spent with him. Yes I could have spent more, but there is no getting that back now, and rather than mourn the loss of time with the little boy, I celebrate the opportunity to get to know the man.
Not having children of my own, I really have no idea of what my sister or brother-in-law are going through right now. I am sure they are proud. I would imagine a little sad too: every day he needs them less for the little things. He will still need them, though, for the big things, the important things: knowing he is loved, someone to share in his triumphs, and a shoulder to lean on to comfort him through his tragedies. They are both smart, good people, and I know they understand all that. Now comes the hard part, letting go of that line, just a little.
Because now it’s all on him. He is grown and he has to stand or fall on his own, more or less. Oh, no one will let him sink, we look out for each other like that, but he has to make his own way, and I know for me it is hard to not want to shelter him still. It must be so much harder for his parents. We will do it though, and he will prove again that our pride is not unfounded. He will make what mark he can on this world, our all grown up, Little Man.