September 20th we moved our daughter Kelli down to Monmouth, OR. where she is a freshman at Western Oregon University. I was not prepared for this. I got out of bed looking forward to a fairly relaxing day ahead of me. After all, she doesn’t have that much stuff to move, so the grunt work part of it wouldn’t be that bad. Besides, we had lots of hands to pack her things. Mostly we’d be scoping out the campus and enjoying ourselves, checking out her new digs. Later that morning I walked by her room. It was empty.
Her stuff was no longer in there. The bed was made, a few books and cd’s were in the bookcase, but there could be no mistake that this was a room that had been cleaned out. There’s something terribly wrong with this picture because for 18+ years my little girl had a room with us, and now she’s going off to live with other people.
Then the memories started rushing by me faster than I could keep up with them. Something was wrong with my eyes, they were welling up and a lump was developing in my throat. I was consumed by memories of my little girl growing up. I could think of nothing else.
Ages 3-5, Kelli the reader and puzzle whiz kid, putting together those United States puzzles and knowing the name of every state. Age 8, the sweetest little girl alive, walking herself to school with Danny, and falling into an uncovered storm drain on the way. Age 10-12, Kelli the soccer player, playing her heart out on defense. Kelli the piano player, nailing a perfect rendition on “Tender Moments” in a public appearance. Age 14, earning enough money to make a trip to France. Kelli the basketball player, believing in herself enough to tryout for the freshman team, making it, and actually scoring some points. Age 16, Kelli the working kid, landing a job and working nights and weekends, and burning the midnight oil to keep her grades up. Age 18, handling the disappointment of getting her car paid off and totaled in the same week. Lap swimming with me and Sue and giggling every time she passed me.
And now, taping up the boxes of all her things, standing next to those empty drawers, next to her empty desk, next to her empty closet, in that empty room.
My heart sank and my mind raced as I gazed into that room. I knew I couldn’t stand there anymore. It was just too painful. I made my way downstairs to the garage for that was my space. I’d be ok in a minute. But in my mind, the image of that empty room was overwhelming. I knew that just as the room was not as it used to be, my life wouldn’t be either. A transition was being made and I could do nothing to stop it. I leaned my head up against the wall and was completely powerless to stop the tears. I wondered if I’d forgotten to tell her anything she’ll need to know. I wondered if I’d done everything I could to prepare her for this phase of her life. I wondered if she understands that I tried my best. I wondered if she knows how much I love her.
I have no idea how long I stood there wondering these things. The next thing I felt was her arms around me. I held that moment as long as I could and neither one of us said a word. The car was packed and it was time to go. I was ready now. I got my questions answered. And I was not going back up to that empty room.