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Tears – many of them – were shed

By Walter Geiger There are many milestones in this all-too-short life we are given here on Earth. The vast majority are greatly anticipated and rejoiced over when they are finally accomplished: that driver’s license, graduations from high school and college, marriage, career success and the arrival of children and grandchildren. Others are dreaded: war, famine, illness, the death of a parent, sibling or, worse, a child. God, in His infinite wisdom, subtly prepares you for some of these things. For others there is no preparation – just hard reality and slow, resigned acceptance. Raising children is something others can advise you about but you have to live it to learn it. It’s like learning to fly an airplane. The day comes when the instructor hops out and you have to takeoff and land by yourself. You learn a lot from the trained mentor but much more wisdom comes as you take the controls yourself. If you have ever observed a bird’s nest, you have seen a lesson on child rearing. After crafting the nest, the mother lays and sits on the eggs, warming them. The eggs hatch and the hatchlings must be cared for round the clock so worms or grains are plucked from the ground and become fodder. Eventually the hatchlings grow larger and noisier. The mother works frantically to keep them fed and safe in the nest. You can almost read her exasperation with and exhaustion from – the effort. Then, one day, the first hatchling flies off. Mom is worried but less hassled. Soon, very soon, the nest is empty and the cycle begins to repeat itself. It’s the same with kids. As they grow, the nature of the nurturing they require changes. They get smarter (in their minds), bossier and more challenging as the days pass. When the teen years arrive, they can drive you nuts fighting with girlfriends, boyfriends, siblings and especially you. It is simultaneously exasperating, fascinating and rewarding to watch them grow and develop. Then, like the hatchlings, the day comes for them to fly the nest. It is a day both anticipated and dreaded. The child will never admit it but they experience that same dread. Theirs, however, is soon borne away on the wings of new-found freedom – as exhilarating a feeling as we are afforded in this life. All this played out in my mind Sunday as I drove home from Athens after we moved our May Melton into Creswell Hall at UGA. I knew the high rise well in that I was housed briefly right across the street at Russell Hall as I first tasted the aforementioned freedom. We had two cars and a pickup full of stuff to cram into a tiny dorm room. Her roommate, Brooke Royston of Royston, also had three cars worth of stuff. Amazingly, all but one lamp stand fit perfectly. The girls and their moms had done their homework well. The dads and May Melton’s little sister pushed carts of clothes and other essentials uphill from the parking lot, through the zoo of a move-in day lobby and to the room. A futon, bookshelves, mini-fridge etc. made their way to the cramped space by brute force while the girls and their moms decorated. When they were done, it felt like home albeit a very small home. The day had begun before dawn for our family. It ended at dusk for Livia and I. Laura is still there, gleaning everything she can from parent orientation. As is her nature, she will know more about it than the instructors by the time she gets home. We were thrilled with the way the room turned out and loved Brooke and her parents. Brooke’s brother played football at UGA so that will open some doors for the girls. Our eldest has flown the nest and we are fully aware she won’t be coming back home often. The pull of Athens is just too strong. When the work was done, we lingered for awhile then the four of us hugged together and exchanged kisses. I tried to offer some words of wisdom and encouragement. I’m sure they were lame. Then, we left the smartly decorated room, our daughter closed the door behind us and a formidable lump formed in my throat as I walked down the long hall. On the drive home that I know so well from countless football excursions, I drove through two bad storms while the only hatchling left in our nest snored like only an exhausted 14-yearold can in the passenger seat. I thought about May Melton’s life to this point and prayed to God that we have imparted the right lessons and done so strongly enough. God had prepared me for the moment as best he could. Still, tears – many of them – were shed. That is as it should be. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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