You helped him pack his car for the trip. You offered, for the umpteenth time, to go with him. I’ll be fine, Dad, he said, and you thought he would but still you wanted to be there to help him if he needed it. There would be things to buy for his room, things you hadn’t already thought of and packed in his car.
He set off alone on the long drive. You tried not to worry about the trip. You had paid for new tires for the car and had your mechanic check it over one more time. You waited by the phone for him to call. Two days went by. Three. You couldn’t stand his mad need for independence any longer, so you cracked and called him.
How is it? you asked. Um, I’m not sure yet, he said. What? Well, I haven’t found it yet. What? The school. It’s supposed to be here in this town, but I can’t find it. What? Listen, Dad, I’ve got to go. Don’t worry. It’s here somewhere. Love you.
This is the way it feels when your grown children, the ones long past college, well out in the world, get in a tight spot. It feels like they’ve gone off to college, driving their little cars all by themselves (as my mother would have put it), and they can’t find their schools. You can’t help them. You know that. Still, what you want to do more than anything is go to them and hug them and tell them everything will be all right, that you will always be there, even though you understand now that you are no longer what they need.