Today begins a new adventure. At this point in my life, I have done the usual rites of passage with my kids: high school graduation. Check. College. Check. College Graduation. Check. Job after college. Check. However, I’ve also added an extra step when it comes to transitioning with children. We’ve gone from “empty nest,” to “back to the nest,” and since Charles’ marriage, we’ve gone back to our nest being empty.
Although it was hard, and a little sad when our boys went away to college, that had always been the plan so it was predictable and expected. And getting jobs and moving away after graduation. Predictable. Expected. But in 2016, Charles decided to change his career path, and came home to live with us after working for a year and a half. This was different and not-so-predictable. Along with his personal belongings, he also brought his dog, Marlie. Our lives changed in countless ways. We had the wonderful opportunity of getting to know our son again, as an adult. Sure, at times it was stressful, because he was an adult, and it wasn’t like we could really boss him around or ground him. We had to deal with things on a different level, and I, for one, felt extremely passive-aggressive with my constant “suggestions” — (a little like Marie Barone). Around the same time that Charles came home, Kaitlyn also came into the picture. We added another person to our lives, and she immediately became a part of the family. And now, they are married, and embarking on their new life together in San Antonio, which is how it should be.
This time the leaving will be harder, and sadder, and very bittersweet. I’ve been handling it all very well. Until today. Today I’m a mess. I can’t stop crying. I’m so excited, and happy, and proud, but I’m a whole lotta sad, too. I will miss seeing them, and I will miss Marlie. She is a huge part of our family.
As with most things in my life, when I need to figure something out, I write. It’s my therapy. I know it may get tiresome (boring) to read about my saga, and I hope you don’t feel as if I’m whining, because I’m not. I just know I’m not alone in my feelings. I know many of you have stood where I am standing today. You “get it.”
I always talk about how everything in life is about relationships. That is my universal truth. When it’s all said and done, it’s about the people in our lives and how they’ve touched, influenced and even changed us. And it’s in those relationships that life gets wonderful and hard, and becomes all things good and bad. But it’s always, always, always worth it to invest in others. Relationships are what make you rich.
Having said all that, I’ll now get to the point.
Charles, for as long as I can remember, has always left me notes, and drawn pictures for me. His thoughtfulness is one of my favorite things about him.
Today, I am writing him a note (actually a blog post, which may or may not be appropriate and is without a doubt a little over-the-top)
“Where we love is home–home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes
To Charles and Kaitlyn:
I hope you’ll always carry these words from that quote with you.
I’m extremely thankful for the bonus time I’ve had with you, and I know that you are ready for everything that lies ahead. You make me so very proud.
I’m always so full of words, and sometimes express them even when I shouldn’t. But today, I find myself struggling to find the right words. The ones that matter. There isn’t enough time to say everything I probably need to, and by now, I’m sure you’ve been overloaded with advice. I wouldn’t be doing my job as your mom, if I didn’t tell you a few things I want you to know as you embark on your new journey. Some last minute reminders…
I want you to know and always remember that you carry a piece of my heart with you. Take care of it, nurture it, and allow it to still grow inside you. I will be doing the same. Everyday.
I have never had a green thumb, and don’t enjoy working in the yard. Not even a little bit. Maybe that comes from years of having to rake the leaves in our huge yard when I was growing up. One year, the incentive was a 10 speed bicycle, but as fast as we raked (Greg and I) the leaves fell even faster. It was an endless chore and we soon lost sight of our goal. In the end, my dad took Greg and me to Otasco and bought us both bicycles. It wasn’t our fault that our acre-sized lot was loaded with trees which evidently were both relentless and heartless.
As odd as it seems to me, this person (me) who is void of the ability to keep plants alive, (and hates to rake, and dig in the dirt) has in many ways been a gardener in my role as Mother. According to God’s plan, a seed was planted, and nurtured, and blossomed. It is our prayer as your parents that your roots are strong and what we’ve planted will continue to bloom as you make your way through life. Even though my years as a “gardener” have come to an end, I am happily and thankfully enjoying the harvest I am now reaping; the ever-plentiful, endless blessings that you and your brother have given me over the years.
I want you to know that I tried. During that time of growing up, I hope I taught you all the things you need to know to travel through this life, and for the things I didn’t teach you, I hope someone else did, or that you know where to go to find information when you may need it (not every answer can be found in a Google search). I hope I prepared you, and was an example for you. And if/when I wasn’t, I hope you learned a lesson that would somehow guide you along the way, all the while knowing and understanding we are all flawed, and that is what molds and shapes us into who we are. We learn far more about ourselves through our failures than we could ever learn from our victories. Whenever life gets you down, always ask yourself, “Do I remain where I am, or do I move forward and become better?” If I’ve learned anything, it’s not what you’ve done in the past that matters, it’s where you are headed. It’s what you do next.
I challenge you to always move forward with grace, passion, love, empathy, intelligence, and above all, move toward the plans that God has for you. As you make your way through this life, treat everyone you meet along the way with kindness. You never know when a kind word or deed might not only make someone’s day better, but might also change someone’s life. Don’t take that responsibility lightly or for granted. If you are kind, you have the power to change the world.
FYI- I want you to know life is tough, and it’s not always fair. You will be knocked down as many times as you will be lifted up. But again, it’s in the way you handle the situation that determines who you are. It’s in the tough times and through the hard work and perseverance that you will become the person God created you to be. Always remember, “No grit, no pearl.”
And always remember your heritage–the ones who came before you, who blazed a trail, and made it possible for you to be where you are today (I know you did the work, but the generations before you helped lay the foundation). Remember the importance of family, as well as the family name. Always be proud of your lineage, and when it’s time, raise your children in a way that continues to hold that family pride and honor to the highest degree.
Kaitlyn, I want you to know how thankful we are that you love our son. You complete him in so many ways. And he adores you. We love you so very much, and are thankful every day that our prayers were answered when you came into Charles’ life. You are precious, and thoughtful, and kind, and have the biggest heart of anyone I know. We love your energy and your spirit—don’t ever let the world tarnish or diminish your light in any way…”You were fearfully and wonderfully made,” and we love you and the lovely woman of God you are.
I want you to know that you will disagree, and you will miscommunicate, and you will make mistakes. That’s a given. You are two different people. However, what one doesn’t have, the other does, so use your strengths and your weaknesses to become better….TOGETHER.
I want you to know, you should always, always, always make a list of things you need to do, or goals you want to reach. (I had to add that, since I’m the CRAZY list-maker). But seriously, when you write things down, you’re more likely to accomplish the task or achieve the goal. Studies show people are 85% more likely to reach their goals if they write them down. I’m telling you this because I tell my Jr High kids the same thing. And if I tell them, I am obliged to tell you too. (sidenote: Most Jr High boys want to be professional athletes, and that’s not included in this 85% who reach their goals. I crush those dreams when they are in 8th grade, when I break down the chances they have of actually making the NFL. One student referred to me as a “dream crusher.” This goal is possible, but you should always have a backup plan).
A few quick reminders:
Never underestimate the power of Watkins “miracle salve”
Eat healthy, exercise, and PRAY daily
“Make good choices”
Don’t stay up all night. Get enough sleep.
AND most importantly, LIVE, and LAUGH, and LOVE FIERCELY. Give it all you’ve got in these areas. Work is important, and being a great employee is key to many things. But don’t make work your life. Live each day and do something for someone else. Lighten their burden or load. Don’t let the world harden your heart or make you cynical. Laugh at all the absurd, funny, and ironic things in the world, and laugh with each other. Find the humor in every situation. And LOVE without ceasing. Do these things with passion and a full heart and you will be blessed in immeasurable ways. Life isn’t about possessions, it’s about people. At the end of your life, it won’t matter what you have if you don’t have anyone to share it with. It’s all about relationships, and the two of you have such vibrant personalities, I know you will be surrounded by many people who love and care for you. Love your friends, and work at maintaining your friendships. It’s worth it. (I am blessed with a wonderful group of high school friends who will agree with this 100%).
San Antonio is 306 miles away, approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes (but that time is much shorter with your dad behind the wheel…LOL). If you ever need us, you know we’re here for you. As sad as it is to say goodbye to this season of our lives, I know that the next season will bring even more joy, and sunshine, and even some rain…but that’s necessary for the garden to grow. Remember during the storms, it’s what you do next that matters.
So here’s to new beginnings, and new relationships! New jobs, and new restaurants, new dog parks, and all kinds of new experiences! I know the future is bright for the Keiths!
Godspeed, and always remember, I love you both BIGGER than San Antonio, and MORE than chips and salsa!
P.S. Originally, I inserted the song, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, but then I opted to end on a lighter note. I always kid that I’m afraid of becoming “Marie Barone.” I pinky promise I will try extremely hard not to be so intrusive (even though I LOVE her character).