It was parent’s weekend at Baylor. Craig and I decided days before to schlepp the boys three hours north to Waco and spend the night in a crummy campus hotel room at double rate so we could be there as Donny’s support team on parent’s weekend. We weren’t interested in the huge lunch or dinner planned on the grounds under tents. Thankfully we didn’t buy tickets for that because it was 96 and humid all day. No one in our clan was interested in going to Baylor’s football game against Buffalo either. I would have bought tickets but it would have been a waste of money. My boys are fiercely loyal to UofM, and since they were playing Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon they hunched (in A/C) around a small hotel room tv and screamed at it. Kevin nearly cried at the last minute when MI won, instead he fell into hugs all around from pure emotional relief. I think I felt that way once and it was when I pulled Jordan at age one out of the baby pool when he had slipped and was floating underwater. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the emotional strength that flows from boys when their teams play.
Donny went to the Baylor game with his friends, naturally. We did not want to make him choose going with us because it’s nice to do, or going with his new group because that’s fun to do. We know. Nothing is worse than being a parent who pulls out the obligation card and waves it in a kid’s face. It’s ok to balance friend and family time even on parent’s weekend.
We arrived Saturday around lunch time at the campus book store. We were loading up on tshirts, hats for the boys to wear when Donny appeared to us. My first reaction was he is so thin. I thought it was just me but the brothers picked it up right away and asked why he is losing the freshman fifteen instead of gaining it. I shouldn’t be surprised because I knew he’d been training for a sprint triathalon the past two weeks. He completed his first triathlon that morning before meeting us, he came in third for his age group, and 48th out of 300. Not too bad for his first effort. He’s been wanting to do triathalons for a couple years now, so when the campus had a group organized to train and compete together, he was first to sign up. He looked at me with this “you know what I mean” grin and said, “I’m hooked.” That means he wants to go bike shopping because he’s pushing pedals on a mountain bike as other contestants whiz past him on aerodynamic road bikes. I know. My second reaction was not a thought but a surge of feeling like a medicine ball hitting my gut, I was relieved to see him because I love him so much and he’s been missing in my circle of arm’s reach. The strength of my joy surprised me. I hugged him, then looked at him up and down, then I had to hug him again- right there in line at the book store. He didn’t seem to mind, he was hugging me back with real intent.
We took him to eat and everyone offered him some of their food. It’s not that he’s skipping meals. He actually is doubling up his intake, but with his intensity level of training, walking campus, and ultimate frisbee for fun he can’t keep on the weight.
It hit him while we sat together at lunch how much he missed us. He’s been so busy and preoccupied with all that’s new he really hasn’t thought about us that much, which hurts no one’s feelings. This is the stage in his life and it’s appropriate to be self involved. But being together as a complete six again was like a big wave crashing over him, knocking him slightly off balance and giving him cause to stand still for a moment and consider what just happened. Over and over, spontaneously with a big familiar much missed grin he said, “boy I can’t believe how much I missed you guys.”
We’ve missed him too. But it wasn’t a sad separation. We like this new way to be a family.