I am pretty sure that I just came off of a life altering experience.
I think that the past three days were one of those pivotal times that we look back on with reverence, once they are safely implanted in the rearview mirror.
On Sunday evening, just as the long hot day was winding down, we got a phone call from our son, Matt. He was one week into what he had hoped would be a month of hiking on the famous Appalachian Trail. I had spoken to him on Friday, and found him to be exquisitely happy and incredibly proud of himself. He was beating his expected mileage, had met a bunch of wonderful people, and was happily enjoying the solitude and the camaraderie of the trail.
I hung up on Friday thinking that he was as happy and as safe as could possibly be expected. But what I didn’t know was that on Saturday and into Sunday, he was caught in drenching rain, and his waterproof boots had become completely soaked. He had broken out in horrific blisters which had erupted and torn and left his feet as mangled as hamburg. At 5PM on Sunday, faced with a ten mile trek to the next shelter and nothing dry to wear, he called us for a pickup.
As I drove the two hours to get him, I was so afraid that he would be upset with himself. I wasn’t sure if I would be bringing him back to our house (my hope!) or to his (my assumption) or even to a local inn for a night of rest and rehab (my worry). I didn’t want him to be thinking that he had let anyone down. I worried that he would be hurt or ill, and that I would want to play Mommy when he wanted to feel like an adult. I drove through the mountains, through the rain, unsure of what I would find when I finally got to the elusive trailhead where he waited.
But I didn’t need to worry, as it turned out. He was tired, he was sore, he was soaked to the skin. He was most definitely let down that his plans had not worked out. But he was also philosophical and mature. He was able to tell me in the first ten minutes of our ride back home to my house that this had been a learning experience. He had brought too much with him, had carried far too much weight. He had underestimated the impact of all that weight and all that water on his skin, and he had blistered in a way that went beyond anything he could have predicted.
He knew that he had made mistakes, but he also knew that he was learning from them. He told me that he wanted to come home to rest and heal, but that he wanted to go back out there for at least the last week of his planned month of vacation.
I drove him home, determined to be supportive, but not to treat him like a child. I gave him a bed, and a meal, but didn’t wash or dress or medicate his wounds.
And that felt just right.
My son is an adult. He is smart, and capable and strong. I found myself relaxing and enjoying the realization that he would ask for what help he needed it, but would handle the rest by himself.
He stayed with us for two days and two nights. It was fun and relaxed and easy. I did what I wanted and needed to do; he did what was right for him.
Tonight his younger brother came to pick him up and drive him home. The younger one (my baby boy!) is covered in poison ivy from his feet up to his knees. He is sore, itchy, possibly infected and most definitely very uncomfortable.
I gave him some benedryl, some calomine and a package of Aveeno. I made a nice big dinner, gave everyone a good round of hugs and well wishes, and I sent them on their way.
And I am so happy to have had them here, so happy to have been useful. And I am so happy to be sending them back home, so happy to be able to relax.
I think I’ve hit a milestone in my Empty Nester Journey!
They came to visit, they came to be healed, they came to see Mommy, but it wasn’t a big old weepy event. It was just my big old grown up kids, stopping by for a bit to see us.
“It warn’t no thang”, at all. It was just life the way it is right now.