My memory is quite faint of that 40th birthday party. It was a party for one of my parents, or maybe a friend of theirs. Doesn’t matter. What I do recall with clarity is how old my parents and their friends seemed to me then. I was disturbed by their raucous, red-faced laughter. That couldn’t be good for their hearts. At their age they should be careful. I marveled at their stamina as they partied hearty. They must have taken a nap.
Yet, here I am, just a few days past celebrating the 40th birthday of a friend. We had a loud and wild time, strapped into four-wheeled metal projectiles riding Lake Michigan sand dunes like crazy men. My parents and their friends ain’t got nothin’ on us. We felt so young and virile – no nap required.
Yesterday, my wife and I transported our eldest child to his first rented room. On a college campus. He begins his freshman year in five days.
Relatively speaking, we’re just entering middle age. My wife looks terrific. Me? Seasoning right on schedule. I’m glad she’s fond of thin, gray hair.
The release of our child to adult living is a wonderful grief. This morning, the open door to my son’s bedroom left an unobstructed view of a bed in which no one slept last night. The room is clean, but lifeless. Empty but for a few visual tokens, which I mentally redeem for good memories strung along nineteen years of vivacious existence. I meander through trial, triumph, experimentation, and failure while gathering armfuls of laughter and wisps of wisdom.
Transplanted into academia, our man-child is anxious to unfold his wings. He’s freshly immersed into quick-made community, seeking safe familiarity while curious with the untried and unknown.
My parental mind frets: “So young!” Yet, I’ve lived enough to lightly grasp the relative nature of age. Each transition in our time-stamped march grants a natural pause to reflect and remember. To grieve and be grateful. To recollect and rest peacefully in the story we each write upon eternity. To value and savor our lives.
So tonight, the second night of undesired separation, I celebrate the release of my son to the development of his person. To the expansion of his soul for his Creator’s pleasure. To the joyful stewardship of his image bearing.
And all the while I wait, with great expectation, for the gift of joy that will come to this middle-age man as I release myself – and my son – to the Greatest Good. In that relinquishment comes rich delight.