My son had his final chorus concert of the year yesterday. He's had a wonderful time in his first year of High School chorus, and he's really bloomed as a singer. He may never be a headliner, but he's learned to listen and to blend, sing with an orchestra, and learn to sight-read. I am fiercely proud of him.
Anna couldn't come to the concert due to her company picnic at her job, which ended up being a very good thing because I walked in the doors at the high school and was immediately greeted by a foyer wall covered in senior pictures. Some featured the names of the grads, and some had their names plus the colleges and tech schools they had declared for.
I found Anna's picture, featuring her university name and her planned major of physics. As always, she takes a beautiful picture. It all sort of slammed into me at once. How far she's come. The life she's had to slog through, and climb over to reach this point.
Yeah, I spent the first half of my son's chorus concert sobbing quietly in a row near the back so I wouldn't disturb anyone else.
I'm not heartbroken at the thought of her leaving home. I've been working toward and planning for this day from the moment she came howling into the world. She'll be living on campus, but her college is fifteen minutes from where I work and forty minutes from home, so it's not like she's trekking across the country. In this day and age of texting, Facetime, Skype and emails, we'll communicate much the same to an extent. All the changes are good changes and I am as excited - maybe more excited - about her getting on with her life as she is.
Last week we both took the day off due to both of our cars being in the shop on the same day. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, we slipped into a cozy sort of time warp, sitting on the couch, sipping mugs of good Irish tea. She was stretched out with her feet on me. I had one hand on my mug and one hand on her leg, gently rubbing from her knee to her foot and back again. She was on her phone, and I was watching her be on her phone. She could have been nine or eleven or fourteen. It was a nothing moment, but like so many nothing moments it was a piece of everything.
Years ago, when my father-in-law lay dying, my ex spent the day with him and returned home, heartbroken. His father was so weak by that point he was barely able to get out of bed. He asked only to be wheeled out the back deck, where he sat smiling, with the sun on his face.
I remember my husband looking at me, tears touching his eyes as he related all of that to me. "This is all life is for him," he told me sadly. "This is what he's reduced to."
And I understood, of course, the heartbreak of seeing a once strong and vital man now measuring his success in the rays of sunlight on his face today. But I also knew that when life is a whirling storm around you, those moments of peace in the sunlight with someone you love beside you can be life in its purest form.
I know when my father-in-law breathed his last he wasn't thinking about the promotions he won at work, the types of cars he drove, how nice his house was or how big his bank account had grown. He was probably remembering the way his kids looked when they slept at night, the way his wife looked as she held them, and those moments of not much going on that ended up being everything in the end.
When my number is up, I'll be remembering feet in my lap, mugs of tea and voices raised in song. The feel of my cat's fur under my fingers on a rainy afternoon. The smell of books and all the little things.
The little great big things.
It's time now for my daughter to build a life of little things around her big milestones. As always, I'll be at the back of the darkened room, sobbing quietly and clapping loudly.