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Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
-Walt Whitman

“You know Caleb — I think we should come up with a word. Something you can say after we get you all set in your room, and you’re ready for us to leave. Pick, like, a fruit or something.”

“Huh?”, Caleb replied from the back seat. “I don’t get what you’re talking about.”

We explained to him that, when we took his older sisters to college, there came to be a moment in the day when they both had everything set up in their room — and they were now ready for us to be on our way. Both of them being rather kind souls, they didn’t intend to abruptly dismiss us with an overtly stated “can you guys leave now”. Their considerations of our fragile parental hearts aside, Shannon and I both remember quite clearly how, in 2016 University Towers and 2018 Metcalf, we got the hint that it was time for us head out.

Caleb has many gifts, but subtlety is not one of them. We thought the code word might give him an easy tool to use, but he still didn’t completely get what we were talking about. We had a small laugh about the idea, decided on a word, and then turned our attention to the NYC skyline passing by.

Move-in day for Caleb was certainly unlike either move-in day we had for the girls — and hopefully unlike any move-in day college kids will have again (I mean, college is just not supposed to start with a school nurse sticking a q-tip up your nostrils). All of his stuff was crammed in to our rental car, and had to stay there until his test results came back. It didn’t matter that he could literally see his dorm room from the testing site — we had to go back and hunker down in our hotel room until he got an email stating that he had a negative test result.

Five or so hours in a hotel room with his parents, after which he finally got the message that he was clear to move-in. Problem being that was at 7pm, and anybody moving-in that day had to be done by 8pm. We rushed back up the hill in the car, pulled in as close as we could, and started hauling boxes. As worried as we may have been that we wouldn’t have enough time to get everything in order for him — it actually went very quickly.

The last items were the most cumbersome, actually. Knowing that they were going to be quarantined, he and his roommate had arranged to each bring hand weights and dumbbells so they could work out while waiting out this first two weeks. Quite a funny sight to watch Shannon and I haul in exercise equipment designed for offensive linemen. No worries, though — we got that in the house, and we found ourselves chatting with him as we leaned up against the wall (trying not to show how badly out of breath we both were).

Maybe we just didn’t know that there were no more boxes, or maybe we just didn’t want to know that there was nothing left for us to go out and bring in. Caleb knew that, though. He reached out with his rather large wingspan, and pulled us in for a hug.

As he broke away from our embrace, he paused and looked at us both.

“Pineapple”, he said.

As secular as this world may be, there are moments that encounter us that are nothing but holy. They may only last a second or two if measured with the chronology of the world — but the experience is so much different. The moment is rich with meaning, searing our souls with a trail marker of our human journey.

And that is why the moment isn’t just all sadness and gloom. I mean, don’t get me wrong — the waterworks were flowing for sure. But we weren’t sad — we were just in awe of the moment of grace that we had just lived. The tumult of the day fell away, and with a mere word I was assured that that he was ready, that he loves us, that he knew that he is loved, that he was turning his eyes beyond us and looking to see what verse he could contribute to the world.