turn, turn, turn
It was his fidget. Even though he quit playing baseball years ago, he still kept a ball in his room, and when he got stressed out, or even just bored, he’d lie on his back on his bed, and repeatedly toss the ball straight up and catch it. Sometimes he’d miss, and we’d hear the telltale clunk on the hardwood floor. He’d do it for hours under some circumstances. I’m sure it was soothing. We all instinctively know the value of keeping our hands busy to still an unquiet mind. A baseball really does have a satisfying heft and feel, too. Tossing a volleyball up like that probably wouldn’t provide the same therapeutic.
Wednesday night, upon returning home after we moved him into his dorm, I went upstairs, and (of course, per usual, forever and ever, amen) he’d left his light on. I went in there to turn it off, as well as to take in the essence of his now-former room, and there it was, perfectly centered on the bed. Left behind, and seemingly placed there, just so. I’m trying not to overread it, and it’s unlikely he was making some sort of statement. But it’s hard to read it any other way: that’s the past, the coping mechanism for a kid, and it stays in the kid’s bed. (As are Eddie and Hobbes, up there by the pillow, though it’s somehow far less surprising that they didn’t make the trip.)
He isn’t a noisy presence—not much of a talker, and no loud hobbies to speak of. That apple fell far from the tree. The clunk of the occasionally dropped ball was often the only indicator that he was in there. But here we are, just a few days in to this new configuration, and the absence of that fourth soul from the house is palpable. This house vibrates at a whole different set of frequencies now. Adjustments are underway for all of us. I remember so clearly when the household transitioned from two to three, and three to four. I’m sure I’ll remember the move from four to three forever, too.
It’s a nice little coincidence, maybe, that our trip to Puerto Vallarta a couple of weeks ago was kind of the last hurrah. Sharon and I went there when she was a few months pregnant with him, back in November of 2003. It was our last vacation as a twosome, and very probably we spent our last vacation as a foursome in the same place. A nice set of bookends, with the humorous sidebar of her not drinking then because of him, and the 18-year-old him able to drink there legally, now. The ease with which he downed a tequila shot in a harborside bar will haunt me for some time.
(How vastly that formerly sleepy, seaside, tourist town has changed over eighteen years is another story in itself. Wow.)
These quantum moves in the household census are jarring. We had nine months to prepare for each of the increases, and eighteen years to prepare for the decrease. (And for the next one, three years from now. Yikes.) The lesson for me, so far, at least, is that all that extra time didn’t make the transition any easier.
I’m trying to avoid all the maudlin cliches. It’s not an unhappy time. He’s going to do great things, and the early reports are that he’s making friends and having fun. And hell, he’s only 45 minutes away, if traffic cooperates. We can and would scoop him right up if the need arises. Eddie, Hobbes, and the baseball will be here if he needs them.
Still. I’m going to have to ask my dad this week how long it takes to get used to this new normal, or if you ever really do.