Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sail on Silver Girl

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side

When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Some posts come to me in a flash. I hear a song or think of a recent event and they are there just waiting to be written.  Very few are thought out and planned far in advance.  This is the latter.  I saw this one coming far before I began to write a blog or we knew anything about Pompe.  I saw it coming the first time I watched her walk away. The strange thing is I encouraged her to do this twice.  Both times I made a promise to always be there for her. The difference this time is she's not coming home for an afternoon snack and a nap. The first time was elementary school.  This time it's college.

During Emma's graduation party, a good friend of mine told me he realized some time ago that he was living on borrowed time with his kids. From elementary school to middle school and high school, the years went so slow, but yet moved so fast.  He recognized that any extra time he could spend with them while they were still home was a gift.  Sure, they'd always be in his life, but never the same way as when they are young.  As I listened, I realized I had never thought about it that way, but he was absolutely right.  As I watched my daughter circulate across the party that night, laughing with her friends and greeting guests, I was hit with the realization that my time with her home was almost up.  

For those of you who have not gone through it, preparing a child for college is an adventure.  During the summer before junior year of high school and throughout the following 12+ months, you find yourself knee deep in college tours, reading about scholarships, talking about SATs, and encouraging your child to consider what they want to be when they "grow up".  It is a very important yet strange time.  You are asking them to think about where they want to live, what size school they want to attend, what they want to major in, and who they want to be.  It's a lot a pressure for someone you just recently were worried about handing the car keys to.  This wasn't a drive to a friend's house.  This is big time grown up stuff.

We approached the process using the advice of someone I heard speak a few years ago.  He was a college coach who told the prospective players to use the "broken leg" concept if they were lucky enough to obtain an athletic scholarship.  By sharing examples of athletes he coached in the past his message was simple.  When choosing a college, consider what you want out of it, not just who appears to have the best team because if you broke your leg and couldn't play, would you still want to be there? So, if you thrive in large groups, choose a big college , but if you learn better in more intimate environments, choose a smaller school.  If you love the cold days of winter, move North, but if you want to be warm in February, move South.  In short, pick a college that suits who you are and you will set yourself up to succeed. 

During our first college visit we quickly realized that a small school was the right thing for Emma.  As I walked from one side of the campus to the other listening to the tour guide and thinking about how cool it would be to go to college again, I was reminded again and again to slow down.  I like to say it was due to my long athletic strides, but my lovely children tell me it's nervous energy.  Either way, I walk fast and my Pompe girls don't.  Not only do they not walk fast, they need to take frequent breaks after walking too far.  So, the idea of walking 30 minutes from one side of the campus to another for classes or visits to the dorm would not work.  Large schools out, small schools in.

Fortunately there are many, many small schools within 2-3 hours from our home.  In fact, there are so many it was tough to limit the choices.  However, being the logical one in the family, Emma defined her criteria, scheduled tours for the handful she really wanted to see, and chose representative schools for the others.  It worked out well. By the end of the process the applications were sent in and we waited.  Halfway through the process she had to make a decision none of us thought of.  If she went more than a two hour drive from our home, our home infusion nurse might not be able to continue with her.  His schedule is quite tight and servicing patients far outside the regular route would just not work.  We weighed the options of other nursing services or infusion centers, but she shot this down.  She and her nurse are close and changing this on top of all the standard changes that come with college would just be too much. That settled it.  She would choose a small school within a reasonable distance from home, but still live on campus.  It was the best of both worlds.  Fortunately, she was accepted by her first choice and it all fell into place perfectly.

Months past by before she was to graduate high school and the realization of our first child off to college truly hit us.  Sure, we took the tours, filled out the papers, and talked about it over and over again, but suddenly it was really here.  The planning went into full steam with Donna and Emma hitting store after store for dorm supplies and the three of us attending orientation seminars.  All the while I tried my best to spend a little more time with her each and every week.  Hour after hour we would talk, laugh, and I would out-stay my welcome as she needed to complete her homework or see her friends who too were soon off to college.  Like my friend would clarify weeks later, I was on borrowed time and I didn't like it.

As I sat in her room those nights talking about life and laughing, I couldn't help but think about those first few months with Emma.  We were in our mid 20's with very little to call our own, but it didn't matter.  Life with daddy's first little girl was magical. Every morning there was a smile to greet you and every night a baby rocking away to sleep.  Day by day she learned to sit up, then to crawl, then to talk, and then to walk. Every morning and every night she held our hand and allowed us to learn how to be parents and mature as adults.  It was a wonderful time.  Our wish was that one day she would be strong woman, a smart lady, and most importantly a good person.  Little did we know how fortunate we would become.       

Move in day arrived on the calendar and off we went.  We had to take two cars for all the supplies so Donna drove with Emma and I with Maddie.  After checking in, finishing the dorm move-in, exchanging hugs, and a final bit of advice, I did something I had been dreading for years.  I drove away alone.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel, but was positive I would break down, but didn't.  I thought for sure I would be sad, but I wasn't.  No matter how much sadness started to enter my mind, I stopped because she was so very happy.  She had been waiting for this day for so long and was finally on her way.  Today was about her and it was perfect. 

On my drive home I didn't listen to music, I just thought about the day and the so many days that lead up to it.  Doing so, I realized we did good.  Our wish was that one day she would be strong woman, a smart lady, and a good person. She is that and so much more.  The courage she shows in her daily fight continues to be my inspiration and I have no doubt grand things are waiting for her.  It is her time to excel far beyond what I could ever imagine.  It is her time to shine.

So in the end, I know three things for certain.  First, I cannot be prouder of who our daughter has become.  Second, I will miss her something crazy.  Third, my message to her is quite simple and is stated by a couple of my favorite songwriters much better than I ever could...

Sail on Silver Girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Credit to: Simon and Garfunkel, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

A few photos along the way:

She's here, overjoyed!

 Special times at Disneyland

 Proud of my girl

Summer 2013 - France

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