Light Bulb

Light BulbYou know that flash of recognition when you just “get it?” It’s almost physical – the sensation of understanding – really understanding an important piece of information, or the significance of an event. As if a light is turned on.

That sort of epiphany can be good or bad, satisfying or bittersweet.  Any number of emotions characterize our moments of realization.

The Car Keys

The other day when I was writing, my elder son knocked on my door and asked for the car keys.

We’re a one-car household. The routine is clear: he asks permission, provides details on where he’s headed, and we agree on when he’s to be home, even if he has friends in tow who will stay here overnight.

He took one look at me – I had the disheveled look of “she hasn’t moved all day,” and he could tell I wasn’t processing what he said.

“May I take the car?” he repeated.

“Where are you going?”

He told me. I said fine. Then he asked if I was okay. I muttered something about my captioning HTML and lack of sleep with the new school schedule, and that I forgot to eat again.

“It’s 5 o’clock,” he said. “Do you want me to make you something before I go?”

He had a look of concern on his face – that face I’ve watched change from round and wide-eyed to this young man – lean, intense, mischievous. Worldly.

He leaves for college in a few weeks, and will celebrate his 18th birthday there, 900 miles away, with new friends, in a new life. His life.

“I’m okay,” I said. “Have fun.”

car keysHe left. Five minutes later he was back with a turkey sandwich – exactly the way I like it.

And then he went out.

More Than a Sandwich

The light bulb moment: He really is leaving.


This is my little boy, nearly a man, who has always been mature beyond his years.  The 6-year old who took care of me when I was ill.  The 7-year old who waited 5 hours in line with me, as we told each other stories,  the day of the Antiques Roadshow.

This is the 8-year old who stood up on the playground against a bully, protecting his baby brother. The 9-year old who was beginning to understand that our family would never be the same after divorce. But I wasn’t to worry – at 10, he promised he’d never leave me. He would build a house in the back yard and live there with his wife and children. I remember thanking him, and telling him it was okay if he later changed his mind.

Pride, Memories, Lessons

At 12, my son insisted I begin dating, and suggested (I had to stifle the smile; he was so earnest – and specific!)

At 13 he took care of me after emergency surgery, and a few weeks later, held me as I wept, after my mother’s sudden passing.

At 14 he was traveling Europe on his own. At 15, he biked hundreds of miles around this city – school, errands – all without complaint, because we had no car, and no means to afford one. At 16, he studied in France on a scholarship, attending French high school in a tiny country town.

No angel, this same young man is the source of my share of gray hair, thanks to his share of  teenage antics. But he sets off for a great university with $150,000 in scholarship, earned through his smarts, leadership, and hard work.

I could not be more proud.

His Road

I have raised my sons to dream big, to give love, and tough out hard times. I’ve made mistakes I can’t undo, and some things, I know I’ve done well.

Half my most important job is ending; my younger son is now demanding the spotlight – rightfully – and will own it over the next two years.

But my firstborn’s light will shine elsewhere. As it should. And his imminent departure is sinking in. It’s a realization that is, indeed, bittersweet.

© D. A. Wolf


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  1. Timothy says

    Congratulations on a job well done. It’s hard to let go, but so necessary. And that sandwich — it must have been hard to eat something so precious as that.

  2. Franco says

    Raising kids after all the years, the love, the trials and tribulations of divorce, just to see one leave, must not be easy. As a parent, you do the best you can, and you give them all you have to offer. They do know that.

    One thing is for sure, kids are forever.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Oh, too cool! I will definitely look at your son’s diabolo video. (My 18-year old is the source of the ceiling marks – and is quite good. My 16-year old is getting good as well, and is now teaching our 17-year old Latvian guest. It’s pretty fabulous stuff – especially when they get LED lights for the diabolos, and start performing at night.)

      Fabulous video! (Just sent the link to my elder son.)

  3. says

    Wow, thank you for sharing your amazing boy with us and your amazing experience of letting him go. I (we) could learn so much from the grace both your son and yourself have practiced. You’re right. We had our children for 18 years (17 in your case), it’s time for them to shine out there in the world. The world is so blasted lucky to have them!


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