E-Net News

In My Words: Boy, time flies

After his only child moved away this fall to college, Associate Professor Thomas Nelson writes in regional newspapers about the passage of time and how life fulfillment must now come from new sources.

The following column appeared recently in the (Burlington, N.C.) Times-News and the Gaston Gazette via the Elon University Writers Syndicate. Views are those of the author and not Elon University.

*****

Associate Professor Thomas Nelson

Boy, time flies
By Thomas Nelson - nelsont@elon.edu

 
It was an only marriage and an only child and each came to my wife and me very late in life. Let me put it this way. Our child graduated from high school this summer and both my wife and I have already inched past 60.
 
When our son was born I asked God to let at least one of us please stay alive until he graduated from high school. God was kind and we made it to the finish line. Now, of course, I am renegotiating that deal to extend the lease until his college graduation. College. I can hardly believe that time is here as earlier this month we dropped him at school.
 
A lifetime is a quick thing. A long time ago my wife and I were in a fast food joint with our then-toddler son. The line was long, the service slow and our impatience peaking. A country music song was playing quite loudly in the background. I will never forget the words.
 
Lyrics from that chance song, at that chance hour, at that chance fast food joint strike deep even after all these years. The song listed the complaints of overworked parents as a litany of labor and love. Getting the kids back and forth to school and sports. Washing their piles of laundry. Paying their endless expenses. Listening to their problems. Feeding their ravenous appetites.   
 
The song’s refrain asked a question. “When will it end?” The simple answer came toward the end of the ballad. “And then it does.”
 
“Boy,” as we often refer to our son in private, is now 19. Trust me when I say he was ready to hit the road. It is the natural order of things. Short of forcing him into the basement against his will there was no keeping him home. I guess that makes him a normal son and us normal parents. Still, it might have been nice if Boy at least looked in the rearview mirror as we drove out of town to his new life.
 
His absence is felt in the oddest ways. The garbage is taken each Tuesday in our neighborhood. It was our son’s job to roll the can to curbside for pick up. Yet for years it would be I who would roll that can down to the curb. Boy, of course, had forgotten to do it. I oddly enjoyed being irked by his weekly lapse of responsibility, regularly going into our house and announcing I had done his job for the last time. Now, of course, that is perfectly true.
 
I guess it’s time for Mom and me to refocus. We have a dog that might serve that purpose. So far I have not lectured it on any topic, taken it sailing or walked it until exhaustion. My wife has also managed to keep her dignity and is not yet resigned to the inevitable conclusion that a dog is better than nothing.

We barely heard from Boy the first week of school. Mom and I would ask each other every hour on the hour if there were word from him. Waiting for a text alert (God forbid he actually call us) we jumped over each other for the phone when his first message arrived. He wrote about walking around his campus at night, about how great college is and, most exciting of all, he attached a selfie taken earlier in the day. His Mom and I just stared at it with so much happiness that I don’t have words to tell you.
 
Not a word from him since.
 
My wife and I remind ourselves we had a fulfilling life before Boy and we will have a fulfilling life after him. Yet his life, his simple presence, married my wife and me in a higher way. As a couple we owe our son for teaching us something new about love.
 
When Boy was born, his Mom and I hoped to make it through his high school years. High school graduation seemed so far in the distance when we asked God for that favor. Time we thought would never end. And then it does.
 
Thomas Nelson is an associate professor of communications at Elon University.

*****

Elon University faculty with an interest in sharing their expertise with wider audiences are encouraged to contact Eric Townsend (etownsend4@elon.edu) in the Office of University Communications should they like assistance with prospective newspaper op/ed submissions.

Eric Townsend,
Staff
9/29/2014 12:15 PM