Saturday afternoon, our family was at Flagler College moving my daughter, Chawney, into her new college dorm room. I knew that at some point, I was going to feel some sadness knowing that my daughter, who I’d just adopted in March, was not going to be accompanying us on the ride home.
That time came at around 4 pm Saturday, when the parents and students were ushered to separate “orientation” classes. One of the first things out of the mouth of one Daniel P. Stewart, Dean of Student Services, was that the parents needed to learn to “let go.” In other words, they had to let their kids make their own decisions and take responsibility for themselves.
When he said those two words, “let go,” I felt as if someone had kicked me flush in the stomach. I suddenly realized that I’d spent all last week trying to imagine what must be going through the heads of Chawney and/or my wife (Christina). This mother/daughter combo is as closely knit as two people in those roles could be.
In this one split second, I discovered I’d never actually taken the time to stop and consider how saying goodbye to someone who’s been an integral part of my life for the last six-plus years would affect ME. I was so worried about everyone else I didn’t really ever stop to deal with my own thoughts and emotions.
But now here we were and there was no turning back. I was going to have to say my goodbyes within the next couple hours, and quite frankly, I knew it was going to be something I was not prepared to handle.
It was everything I could do to not stand up and shout, “BITE ME, Daniel P. Stewart!”
See, what Mr. Daniel P. Stewart doesn’t understand is that I will NEVER let go, at least not completely. Sure, Chawney now has the ability to make decisions on her own and lead her own life, but I am always going to be her dad. I will always be there for her and her brother – no matter how old they are, where they live or what they become.
During dinner, our last “official” gathering together, we were all unusually quiet – and if you know “the Weises,” you know we are normally among the most chatty, animated families on the block. We all knew the time was drawing near, and there was no conversation or humor-driven banter that could gloss over the emotions we all felt.
I had an entire laundry list of emotions going on: I was proud simply to be the father of such a magnificent kid; I was feeling grateful for having Chawney under my roof for the last six-plus years; I was feeling cheated because I only had her under my roof for six-plus years; I was thrilled for Chawney because I do feel this is a great opportunity for her; and I was feeling sad that life as I knew it was never going to be exactly the same. Maybe it was a little selfish, but that latter one was by far the strongest.
Prior to dinner, I’d promised myself that because I was a man – and men don’t get all emotional, I would be strong for my wife and Chawney. But who was I kidding? I didn’t even make it through dinner before starting to cry – and I don’t mean just a little. I literally sobbed for the rest of the time we were there and about a third of the way home. Just re-living the moment now makes the water works start all over again.
“Let go.” You’re joking, right?
As Chawney closes one chapter of her life, I intend to be a part of the new one – even if it means going from being a major player to a “best supporting role.”
Bite me, Daniel P. Stewart!