That day heading to the airport filled me with utter despair. I experienced a mix of anxiety and sadness. Anxiety because of international travel as the pandemic was waning but still not done with.
That 2-hour ride to the airport was peppered with little conversation, as each of us was lost in thought. Old Hindi songs played in the car filling the silences. Familiar roads sped past, a sunny afternoon was slowly turning into a weepy evening.
Nothing new for Bengaluru which sees all four seasons regularly on an average day. As we pulled into the parking lot, heavy rain that we encountered on the way had magically subsided, and sun broke through the clouds.
We picked up the large bag along with the backpack and a smaller carry-on luggage. With a heavy heart, we marched towards the Departure Terminal.
Grabbing a chocolate chip cookie and tea, we tried to make small talk but gave up. We had come to the airport to bid the older son goodbye. He was traveling to the US to join in-person classes for his undergraduate course.
This was his first solo international travel. Pandemic fears were easing, but far from over. India was still only operating bubble flights to countries. And US was not welcoming visitors except the very essential.
Waving goodbye to my little big boy, as he entered the departure terminal filled me with an incredible sadness. Finally the day had arrived when he was stepping out of the comfort of his childhood home and treading into new territory.
Yes, I was happy that he was finally going to enjoy a real college experience after spending a year of online classes. But the gaping hole that a child who flies the nest leaves behind for the parents and the sibling is hard to fill, at least initially.
We had been preparing for this day over months, cherishing each extra day that he got to spend with us. Last few weeks were filled with frenetic activity. Lists, shopping, vaccination, tests, paperwork, family visit.
Yet, when the day dawned it wasn’t easier. Each of us left behind was grappling with it in our own way. Younger son was the most distraught as his childhood companion and brother left home. The thing with older siblings is that you most realize their value when they don’t live with you.
The husband and I were also deeply affected, but we kept up a calm exterior. Tears came later. Ride back home from the airport was quiet and lonely despite the three of us being together. And Coco, I really don’t know what he felt.
It took us almost 3-4 days to pull ourselves together and resume our workout, work and routine without feeling constant melancholy.
Such is life! Our children come into our lives bringing with them a lifetime of memories. And then as is the circle of life, they move on to create their own life.
As a parent, the best thing you can do for them is to enable them and then let them go to make their own mistakes and relish their successes. All the while hoping that your upbringing has made them sensible and ready to face the challenges of the world.
Always a responsible child, the young man came into his own when living solo. Over video calls daily, we are in touch with what is going on in his life. He makes time in his busy schedule to speak at length.
He calls us together and sometimes individually taking special care to speak to his sibling who took his absence the hardest. I always knew he was mature and sorted. Glad to see it unfold in how he has handled everything in his path so far.
I wonder how it was for my parents. Of course, I lived with them till my graduation, but staying away for post graduation must have taken a toll on them. I guess, it is the same for all parents. Very tough, no matter when the child leaves home.
It’s like a new phase in life is beginning. We have slowly settled into a routine where we have made peace with the new normal. His childhood home as he knew it will not be blessed with his constant presence any more.
We are starting afresh, just like he has done in a place far away. That he is happy and thriving keeps us happy as well.
Thank God for technology which keeps us connected on a daily basis. I can’t help but remember how when I was in college, I could speak to my parents once a week.
The inter-state calls were expensive, and we spoke only little. I could not share the mundane daily things with them. It was like they were almost cut off for two years of my life.
Mobile phones, internet and WhatsApp came so much later. How would they have adjusted not speaking to their child for days on end? It is only after we become parents that we actually understand our parents better, isn’t it?
I am looking forward to heading to the same airport to receive him when he comes home for holidays. The next time dropping him off when he heads back after his break will not be as heart wrenching.
Time prepares you and helps you adjust. Now, the younger son is basking ( or should I say flinching) in all the solo attention that he gets from his parents. 🙂
And his favourite retort of how much we favour the older son is neutralized. 😉 Adjustments, I kid you not!
Emotional moments…. kids fly but that is what the wings are for… 🙂 Wishing the very best to the young man for his life 🙂
I agree and the process of adjustment for the parents begins on a tough note but gets easier with time. Thanks Prasad for your wishes.
Hugs, Rachna. Children grow up too quickly. It’s only appropriate and absolutely inevitable, but for parents’ it will be never easy to adjust. I can only imagine how difficult that car ride back home must have been. The younger ones would definitely feel the absence of their elder sibling, right? Here, my 5-year-old is always after his big brother. As you said the next ride to the airport won’t be as heart wrenching.
By the way, where in the US is he studying? I am in Phoenix, Arizona.
Thanks Vinitha. He is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Hugs, Rachna, I can feel what you must have gone through but this is one day we parents must all face, sooner or later. Your post brought back many precious memories for me.
I’ve lived away from home for many years and only now, can I say, I truly understand how tough it must have been for my parents when I left home at 16. It was tough for me too, but in a very different way. I think parents always find it tougher to cope with the empty nest. Thankfully, you’ve a younger one to keep you company.
Time flies, Rachna. Like you said, very soon, you’ll be ready to welcome him back home for the holidays. Wishing Sid all the very best in this new chapter of his journey ahead.
Thank you so much, Esha! Hugs right back.
Ah, parenting is a tough job, and seeing your little one fly the nest, is the toughest! Hugs, Rachna! I could feel all your emotions as I read this post.
I remember, when I was to get married, my mum once said, “You are a piece of my heart, Shilpa. And it is really not easy letting go of you.” How we both cried then!
I am glad for your little big boy, who is out to make his own life, enjoy the adventures life brings along the way, learn from his mistakes and savour his successes. And I am glad that you gave him your all and prepared him so well…it shows in how responsibly he calls you all everyday, spends time talking with his younger bro, shares his story with you all. God bless him!
Whenever I re-read this post, it brings tears to my eyes. Despite it being more than a year on. But yes, I am in a much more stable and happier place now. I do miss him terribly and I guess will always do. But, it is easier to lead a routine as long as we are in touch almost daily. Thanks so much for your kind words.