The Year of Lasts

My son begins his senior year of high school tomorrow. He is 17 and no longer looks like a kid. This summer, he grew a full beard in the space of a few days that a good many of my adult friends could not muster, even given weeks of lazy grooming. He’s got an easy laugh and a hug for anyone that needs one, even his mother, when that anyone is me. He will spend this year playing football and baseball, sending in college applications, and waiting for word on where he will be next fall. This year will be all about figuring out next year, but for now he’s still in high school. For now.

This year will go by, as all others have, more quickly than I can keep pace with.

This will be a year of lasts.

The last first day of high school.

The last high school football game.

The last ride to school with his younger sister.

The last night at home before college.

Sometime in the past year or so, he’s grown much closer to his brother and sister. We’ve transitioned from a life where I felt like the hub of the wheel, with the kids spinning around and through me to connect with each other. They have their own relationships away from me now, and they are rich and independent and among the most beautiful things I’ve seen. The image of my 17 year old and his younger sister walking off into the halls of their high school together, back when I would still drop them off in the mornings, will be one that I carry with me, always.

They have secrets together. They go out to breakfast together. They get locked out of our house and break in together, using more coordinated effort than they ever exhibited at my urging for any task I can recall. I should have been angry, or at minimum annoyed, by the mangling of the window screen, but I was so enthralled by the notion of him boosting his sister through the window that I couldn’t be. They laughed as they relayed the operation to me. I watched them retelling their adventure, with my delighted eyes wide, taking in their connection.

When his younger brother left for a week-long backpacking trip, he lasted two days before telling us how much he missed him. Two days.

I’ve always thought that one advantage these kids had when it came to leaving home for college would be the fact that they would already be used to spending time away from their parents. They’ve spent most of their lives living between two houses. As a result, they are adept with transitions. After bumpy beginnings, they thrive in the independence it affords them to be their own people, outside the direct influence of one parent or another at any given time.

Of course, what they have always had, no matter where they are, is each other. Soon, they will not. As I’ve often thought how it will be when each of them leaves home for the first time to start forging their own way in the world, it’s the one thing for which I haven’t accounted in my imaginings. As my heart will squeeze tight in their absence, it will ache in watching them figure out how to be without their constants. They will have visits and holidays, but this is the last year they will have together in the way that they have since they were born. We are going to live every second of it.