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  • It’s been a bittersweet week on many different levels. Going back to work after being gone for two weeks was the main event. Much as I was dreading having to face all of the folks asking me how I was doing, and worried about having to relive all of the grieving I’ve already done, it hasn’t been like that at all. It’s actually been nice just talking about how it all went, with people I’ve worked with, some for many years, people who are very much a part of my life, people who truly care about me.

    Just the so-called “normalcy” of being back to work has been wonderful. By last Sunday night, I was so overwhelmed by everything; I thought it was going to be a week from hell. Well, it did have its moments. I learned the valuable lesson, again – (here’s a good place to insert a line from a favorite Dylan tune – “so, here I sit so patiently, trying to find out what price, you have to pay to get out of having to go through all these things twice”) - that I need to set certain limits on what I think I can do, and not take on more responsibilities than I’m in a position to handle. I said “yes” to a request to take on new role, against my better judgment, and with the caveat that I have a lot on my plate and won’t be able to do a whole lot with it right away. “No problem!” Sure, but I should know better – I take any role I have seriously, and want to do it well, so I jumped right into this new role head-first.

    There’s a funny thing about diving into something. It’s pretty hard to reverse that motion. Reminds me of the time I was diving into a backyard swimming pool, where the deep end was just the area in front of the diving board. A little girl started swimming right out to the point I was aiming for in my dive. It was too late to reverse my motion – I was able to adjust my aim, and made it further out beyond her…where it was much shallower. Just as I was sighing with relief that I didn’t dive into the little girl, I kissed the bottom of that pool, as it rose up into the shallow end, with the full force of my (then) 180 pounds driving the top of my head right into that concrete pool bottom. The next thing I knew, I was laid out on the ground beside the pool and someone was doing CPR. That injury took years, and hours of chiropractic manipulation, to overcome.

    My most recent encounter with diving into waters I was not prepared to deal with had just as sudden an impact on my psyche as diving into the bottom of that pool had on my head and neck. As soon as I hit those waters, there was an initial and sudden impact, a stunning blow that just told me “You are out of your depth, here, dude – turn back – ‘I can’t’ – get out. Now. Don’t think – just go!” That’s all I knew. I just had to get out, and figure it all out later. So I did. And I did – figure some of it out.

    The new role? Gone. It’s not the first time I quit a job after 3 days. The rest? Well, it seems my best course of action right now is to limit my exposure to things emotional and potentially drama-inducing. I’m still quite raw in that area. I’m not done grieving. Work is non-stop change and drama at the moment.

    As if all of that was not enough, throughout all of this, underscoring everything else going on this week – this was my son’s last week at home before moving out for good. He left yesterday. He has a place to stay in Southern California, he has a possible job offer, he has a little bit of money saved up, but he has a dream, and he has grown a pair of beautiful wings, and he took flight at 4:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, on a one-way trip to the land of his dreams. He’s gone, now. The bird has flown the nest. I never had a moment of empty-nest syndrome the entire time he was away at college – college was an hour and a half down the road. I never had any problem when he was travelling abroad to Turkey, and Hong Kong, and Transylvania and Hungary. This time, I am affected.

    As I said up front – bittersweet. It is not unlike the way I felt when I sat with Mom as she took her final breath. On the one hand, I was so happy that she went the way she wanted to – quickly, without enduring too much pain, fearlessly, right to the end. She never had to lose her dignity, she always had someone who cared right by her side, right to the very end. She knew she was heading into the great unknown, but she was going with a compass and a plan, a determination and without fear. In that moment, I cried tears of joy, for her. The tears for myself, and for my family, and her friends, came later.

    It’s like that now with J.B. I was thrilled and happy for him all week. I asked him a couple times, “Are you excited?”, and he was. He didn’t even have to say it, I could tell. And, he was so ready to be out of here. God, I knew that feeling. I was so ready to be gone from my parents’ house when I first left for the Navy. I, too, took my initial flight to Southern California. In so many ways, he reminds me so much of myself, yet, in so many ways, he is so much his own man. He’s such a good man.

    But, I still remember not being able to pass up a matchbox car in the store without picking one up for him, just to surprise him with when I got home. I remember, when he had the chicken pox when he was 5, and I stayed home from work with him, giving him oatmeal baths and him looking up at me and saying, “Dad – you’re the best Dad I ever had!” I remember Beanie Babies, and Care Bears, and Power Rangers, and plays he was in, and plays he directed, and all the good times, and all the tough times, we had as he grew up. If I had to surrender every role that I have played in life and got to keep only one, the one I would choose to keep would be being J.B.’s father. This is the role that changed my life the most. The one that has brought me the greatest moments of joy, and pride, and satisfaction.

    And now he’s gone. I didn’t have any pearls of wisdom for him as we said our goodbyes the last night. Just like I didn’t have any grand parting words for Mom as I sat with her before she took her final flight. In both cases, I just tried to be there, in that moment, and to enjoy the moment, the love we shared, and to send them on their way with love and with blessings. I know, in my heart of hearts, that Mom and J.B. are both in a good place.

    I, on the other hand…….well, that’s another story.

    Photo: Taken by J.B.’s dear friend, Kelly, as he boarded his plane for the land of his dreams.

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