So Friday is the big day, huh? College.
College? How did THAT happen?
I looked at some pictures today of the campus at good ole’ F.U. and it got me all verklempt. It’s a beautiful place, filled with shiny happy people and I have a good feeling that you will grow there, from the kind and clever young man you already are into an even truer version of yourself.
There will be some rough spots along the way, no doubt. I was dying to go to college back in 1879, but even though I had dreamed of getting there for so long, I still turned my face to the wall and cried a few tears after the lights went out on that first night. There I was, under that brand new comforter and in sheets right out of the box–on my own and out in the world. Alone? Not really, but kind of more alone than I had been up to that point in my life.
So if you get a little lonesome Friday night and start to feeling alone in the world, I hope you will think back to these few stories and know that you are 100%, unequivocally loved by me and everyone else in this big messy family.
I came to meet you in the hospital right after you were born, but the nurses had you in the fishbowl for some nursey kind of stuff. We didn’t get to meet that day. Instead, your dad showed me a video that he had made right after you were born. In the frame you see your mom beaming with happiness. The nurses had you in the bassinet to do the Apgar test and get you cleaned up and you were screaming and yowling and shaking with fury. There you were out in the world for the first time and you were NOT HAVING IT. In the video, Joe walked over to where you are and reaches out his big ole finger. He said something calming, like “Hey, buddy” and he touched you on the arm very gently. You immediately stopped crying (and he started).
About three weeks later, you came to my house for a visit:
Yes, we had pink carpet. It was awful. So was that marriage, but that’s another story for a different day. You were out in the world for real, out in the suburbs. I still didn’t get to hold you that day. Papa did. He held you in his lap and cried because he loved you so much. I’m glad y’all share a name. I’m glad we all share a name.
A few months later, Fartbuster and I came to babysit you, so your parents could go out in the world. That’s a tale I’ve told already in Saved By a Nectarine. I owe you a thank you for that episode, really. If it hadn’t been for your diaper catastrophe, Fartbuster and I might have had kids together. Thank you for scaring him off. I owe you one.
You were too young to remember Fartbuster. Much like you, Aunt Ashweeeee spent those couple of years learning how to walk on my own and learning how to feed myself and learning how to move around out in the world. There was one night when I came over to babysit you and I was just gutted with sadness. As much as I loved you, being around you awakened this fear that I would never have a child. I’d never have someone to love me the way your mom and dad love each other. And to top it all off, I woke up the next morning with a giant zit on my chin. You asked me, “What dat?” and I almost sobbed the answer: “It’s a grown up kind of boo boo.” But with a simple little kiss, you made it better. You fixed a little part of my heart that day. Thank you. I got the courage to go out in the world again.
I don’t know if you remember Uncle Richard. Y’all hit it off right away. I brought him to Callaway Gardens to meet everyone. You and Jackson were playing in a giant pile of leaves and Richard took a few steps back, got a running start, and did a flip right into the pile. Your face lit up like you had found one of your kind roaming around in the world. He was a lot of fun and loved you. He proposed to me on your sixth birthday–do you remember that? I called to wish you a happy birthday and said, “Hey, Grant! Uncle Richard asked me to marry him. Should I say yes?” You said, “Sure, I guess so.” I took your advice. Thank you for that.
You were too young to know it at the time, but you’ve helped me through some of the toughest days of my life, just by being your joyful self. On the day Richard and I finally got married, your sass kept me focused on the happiness we made that day in our backyard, not on the sadness that was out there in the world. You ate a GIANT piece of cake (More Up, Please!) right under your mom’s nose.
You and Jake rolled down the hill until you were covered in grass. Richard’s dad had such fun playing with you that day. Thank you for that, for being a little boy so full of life. You and I shared a toast, each with our own kind of bubbly drink. I raised my glass and said, “To the Student of the Week!” and we clinked glasses. You raised your glass and said, “To the bride!”
Thank you for that.
Not two weeks later, you helped me find a little glimmer of joy again when I was completely lost in grief. I was waiting in the vestibule of the church for the funeral director to bring Richard’s ashes in for the service. For a second, I was by myself in that quiet spot, right out there in the world all by myself. I didn’t know what to do to keep myself together. Then the door cracked open and I saw your dad and mom, looking sad. Before I could say anything, you came busting in and gave me the biggest hug. When I let you go, you rocked back on your heels and said, “Aunt Ashley! We got new shirts!”
Do you know how precious it is to me that I can look back on one of the saddest times of my life and that few seconds of joy is the thing that I remember most vividly? Thank you for that.
Well, I better wrap this up because you’ve got a big day ahead. I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you go out into the world, remember that you are never alone. You’ve taught me that lesson over and over in the last almost 19 years. I will come running if you ever need me, Grant, whether you need cake or a new shirt or a hug. I owe you.
Go have fun.