My oldest grandchild left for college yesterday. Another milestone for the family, for this cute guy. It’s not like he’s going that far away and I’ll even see him next week since I work on campus part-time, but it’s still a milestone. For me, the grandmother, the emotions run across many decades.

Watching him packing, I saw his mother and father helping him with everything from checking the car to doing his laundry. It’s amazing how much he’s taken for granted and I know this because I was the same way when I left. I’d never really been away from home other than to stay with relatives, so college was a cultural and environmental shock. I graduated with 650 students and my new roommate was from a class of 6. Wow!

My grandson went to visit the campus a couple of weeks ago just to walk around and see where his classes were so he didn’t have to stumble around the first week. I bet he still does some of that because Freshmen tend to stand out, no matter how sophisticated they think they are. Everything is new and your parents aren’t there to ask for help. Of course, now the kids all have cell phones where we had to get change and wait for the pay phone and make a long distance call, which was through the operator in those long gone days. It doesn’t really matter what the differences are in technology because the emotions are all the same.

This grandson is the oldest of the three boys who were born before my husband died, all born in an 8 month period before and during the time he was battling cancer. This oldest one had his first birthday exactly one week before his grandfather died. And here we are at our next chapter. My mind spins with memories of my own college days, his mother’s, and now the new images of him leaving. And then my mind takes many turns as it goes through memories of his mother as a child and this one’s birth and all the years in-between. Is it a wonder we get emotional with all of those images flying around?

My eyes get teary from happiness for him mixed with the ever-present concern based on the years of knowledge of all the things that can go wrong. I expect his parents will experience what we did, going from waiting up for him to come home to wondering where he is and what he’s doing in a new, wilder environment where we aren’t minutes away. What I can tell them is that parenting never stops, never ever. I still worry about them and feel a rush of relief when they are all home, safe and sound. It’s an uncontrollable component of parenting for me. I know there are people who let go and that’s fine, but I don’t seem to be able to do it. My kids are grown, accomplished, wonderful adults and I love and trust them, but they’re always going to be my kids. I’m a sentimental idiot about them. Nothing they do is too mundane for me to enjoy hearing about, good or bad. But, my mind wonders again.

That’s the problem with this college thing. It’s releasing all the old emotions and memories again, giving them new places to roam. Next year, my next two grandsons leave for college, so this is just the beginning of letting these kids go ahead and live their grown up lives. I have two grandsons in tenth grade this year and a grandson and granddaughter in 8th grade. I’ll be going to graduations and seeing them off to college a lot in the next few years. And then, there’s the one who’s heading into kindergarten. Will I be here to see her off to college and launching her new life?

The average person now starts having kids in their late twenties or thirties. I’ve commented many times about the danger of edging out grandparents along the way. My own grandparents were such an important part of my life that it makes me sad to think of generations of kids without grandparent. I hope I’ve been an important part of my grandchildren’s experiences and memories and I hope their parents can do the same for them. It’s one of the greatest gifts you get in life.

I’m imagining my grandson waking up in his room in the fraternity house with a new roommate from Texas, probably getting up late after staying up all night talking and getting to know each other and the other guys or finding his high school friends on other parts of the campus. It’s a heady time in life with all your dreams ahead of you and all the realities right in front of you. It’s a giant step. Working with college kids, I envy them the experience but not all the challenges that lie ahead as they study for exams, look for jobs, build relationships. 11899866_10207157287068278_5262443680856584506_n - Version 2

This will be an interesting week and I can’t wait to hear from my grandson. I’m proud of him and all my family and I’m so very grateful to be here to watch all of them in these next steps, step by step really, through life.