“I love you dad.” On endings that really are beginnings.

I love this time of year.  Though my kids are adults, I still remember the shopping for uniforms and notebooks and lunch boxes.  I remember the sandwiches and fruit cups and notes on napkins. And mostly, I remember the lump in my throat, holding back the tears as I said goodbye to each of my children on the first day of school. Even when they could drive themselves, I felt that lump in my throat as I saw them to the door before they headed off to their first day in a new grade. Something about new beginnings always gets me choked up. One school year ends, one new season begins. Ebb and flow.  I like it.  It’s comforting.

These days, the start of school is signaled by the increased traffic up and down our street. The other morning, as I was getting ready for work, I whispered, “School must be starting today.” Yep, it was.  Back to schedules. Back to lunches with notes on napkins, uniforms clean and crisp. Hope for a year of learning and confidence building.

Though we don’t have children in school anymore, we celebrated an ending and a beginning in our home last week.  My husband’s son Malachi moved out of our home and into his new place in San Luis Obispo… about 230 miles from us. Okay, it’s exactly 228 miles door to door. Yeah, exactly.

Malachi is not my son. He’s my husband’s son. And though I didn’t raise him, for the past three years he has been part of my normal, daily life. He is my step-son. A funny term that is. Makes me wonder where that even came from. Step-dad, step-mom, step-son. What? It makes no sense to me. All I know is that this blended family thing has been crazy and wonderful and did I say crazy? But I digress.

Anyway, we had the privilege of helping him and his friends move to their new apartment. And a privilege it truly was. To be able to rent the truck, help them pack it, drive it there, help unload it, put screws in tables and cups in cupboards was a gift. Perhaps it was a gift to them as well, but I’m talking about the gift it was to us. The moments seeing their proud faces as they moved in furniture, set it in place and decided where they would put things in their place – not their parents’ place, their place. Those memories will live on in our hearts and I am SO glad we were able to experience that with them.

Precious. Sweet. Full of hope.

It’s a natural thing, this moving on of adult kids. They are supposed to grow up and away. They are supposed to move on and take a piece of our hearts with them. They are not supposed to live at home until they are thirty (or forty or fifty). Oh please no! So, while my husband still wakes up in the night and looks for Malachi’s car, and I wonder what they are eating and if they will be able to pay the rent, they are on their own and enjoying the freedom it brings. They are doing what young adults are supposed to do. And we, the parents (or step-parents as it were), let go and watch from afar, knowing that they have the confidence to do so because we are their safety net.

As my husband lets go, I remind him,

You’re a good dad. You’ve given him everything he needs to make it on his own.

I knew the parting would be difficult. I knew the moment we had to say goodbye and head back to our own home would be hard for my husband. The long, lingering hug. The tears hidden behind sunglasses. The lump in the throat as he let his son go into the new adventure waiting for him. That sense of knowing that this is what he is supposed to do, but wow is it ever hard for his dad.

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I love you dad.

Words spoken from a son to his father. Words that lingered long in the air as we drove the 228 miles back home. Words said by the son to the father, before the father said them to the son. That’s important. That’s significant. That will be remembered. Way more than a simple, I love you too.

I can’t help but think that our Heavenly Father loves to hear us say I love you as much as we love to hear it from our kids. The Father who is our creator. The Father who releases us to make our own choices and be there for us when we choose poorly and need the grace to know we are loved no matter what. The comfort. The hope. The safety.

I love that about my Heavenly Father. Though many might say I’m not worth it, I have no value, I have to earn his love, the reality is entirely opposite. Just like our love for our kids, our Father’s love is there, no matter how far we are from him.

I love you dad.

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