The Final Countdown


It’s the final countdown. [Insert annoying keyboard riff here if you’d like. Or don’t. Although I’m sure the tune has already penetrated your brain by this time and now will be on “Repeat” for the next three days anyway. Yeah, sorry about that.]

No, I’m really not referring to the Europe song. It’s exactly one week until we drop off Boy #1 at college.

One. Week.

The pit in my stomach began to form a year ago, when I couldn’t believe he was going to start his senior year. And it’s never left. There were just too many “lasts” that the pit never had a chance to leave — the last time he’d play football, the last wrestling match, the last time he and his girlfriend would sit on the floor by her locker before school (And yes, I stood outside my classroom and pretended to answer a text while secretly taking a photo so I could remember this moment forever. Did you even have to ask?)

Graduation was hard enough, but at least I knew I had a few more months with him before I had to kick him out into the cold, cruel world. And as the summer has begun waning down, I’ve found myself becoming just a wee bit crazy, trying to do anything I could to take my mind off The Final Countdown.

Like cleaning. It began with the garage. I started out just taking down the tables that were still set up in my garage from my rained-out garage sale two months earlier. (No one’s surprised they were still up, are they?) Then suddenly I was organizing tools, wiping mystery fluorescent-green grime off the workbench, knocking down cobwebs that I’m pretty sure were original to the 1960s house and even venturing into the corner where I know a mouse lives and is just waiting to jump out and eat my face. Now mind you, we still can’t park a car in there. It’s only one stall and well, we have a lot of crap that has nowhere else to go. And although I still wouldn’t eat off the floor, I would probably eat off a plate that was sitting on the floor, which is as good as it gets at our house.

Then I started to tackle the basement. You know, the basement where we finished a room for Boy #1 and then apparently after hammering in the final nail, dropped the hammer, put our hands up and announced, “I’m out.” We’ll get all of this cleaned up tomorrow, we said. And we did. If the term tomorrow has been changed to now mean a timespan of approximately four years.

Yes, people. I’m talking wood, drywall, power tools — it was all still down there. Along with about four inches of drywall dust mixed with just regular old gross basement dust. Now, we had cleaned up Boy #1’s room, we’re not that disgusting. But the rest of the unfinished basement was HORR. I. BLE.

Did I mention that everything that we didn’t know where to put over the past four years was also stashed in the basement? So it was not only dirty, it was CHOCK FULL. And the best part? The petrified turds I kept finding from when my dog had evidently snuck downstairs to do his business. Oh, he won’t go down there when we’re down there. He knows better. He just sits at the top of the stairs like a perfect angel. But apparently when he thinks we’re not looking he likes to creep down the steps and take care of business. I never knew when I would run across one; it was always a surprise. You know, kind of like an Easter egg hunt. But not as colorful.

As I was elbow deep in dust and doo-doo, Husband came downstairs, processed what he was witnessing, and said, “I think you’re opposite nesting.” And it hit me — I was. Before the boys were born, I always got that burst of energy that made me want to clean out cupboards and alphabetize the spice rack. I realized that I’m experiencing that same feeling, except instead of trying to make everything perfect before a boy joined our home, I’m trying to make everything perfect before one leaves our home. And the fact that it keeps me so busy that I don’t have time to think about the fact that he is going to leave soon is an added bonus.

But now the garage and basement are clean, nearly everything on the college shopping list has been checked off and I am forced to think about it.

And it kind of sucks.

Parents of young kids, I know every day someone or another tells you, “They grow up way too fast.” And you politely nod your head and smile.

But, seriously, they grow up way too fast. It’s really a thing. Soon scientists are going to discover the proof that as your children age, time moves exponentially faster, so much so that you will finish reading the last Harry Potter book to your child, hand him his soft blue blanket, tuck him in and innocently close your own eyes for the night only to wake up and find that he’s got armpit hair, big muscles and tattoos (Yeah, tattoos. Just go with it.) and you’re at Target buying him a set of steak knives and explaining to him what a pillow sham is.

And you try to remember the last 18 years and all you come up with are glimmers of images of baby steps and toothless grins and light sabers and that “Husky phase” and home runs all blurred together so that you really can’t picture anything clearly at all.

And you’re not only sad, you’re downright pissed that his childhood is gone and you had no say in the matter.

Rational Me knows that this is part of life. Children must grow up and move away. And it will someday feel normal and right.

But Batshit-Crazy Me considers locking him in the basement, where I can read to him when I bring down his cookies and milk and kiss him goodnight. I mean, we haven’t even read the new Harry Potter book yet!

And Rational Me tries to regain control and reminds me that this is not a reason for heartache. People lose their children, for Heaven’s sake! And I can’t even begin to imagine that pain.

I know Rational Me is right. And it will tackle Batshit-Crazy Me next week before I handcuff myself to Boy #1 so we never have to be apart.

And instead Batshit-Crazy Me will go home and cry, flipping through scrapbooks and eating that King-Sized Hershey Bar that looked at me so sympathetically in the grocery checkout line. And realizing I will be doing this again in another four years, I’ll begin warning myself: They grow up way too fast.


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