We moved into our current house 17 years ago. Steph was a little over 1-1/2 years old. Josh was 5-1/2. Geoff was 12. Geoff left for college 11 years ago. Josh made his exit four years ago. And today Kathy and I took Steph to the University of Montana in Missoula. After hauling her belongings up to her dorm room, we left to pick up a few more things and get something to eat. Returning to her dorm, we said our goodbyes.
Now I will pass by three empty bedrooms when I go to bed at night and get up in the morning. Rooms I used to sneak into late at night and put money in place of the tooth under the pillow. Rooms I barged into on Saturday mornings, like a cheerful alarm clock, loudly strumming my guitar. Rooms I painted as the occupants shifted. Rooms still bearing the scars of a child's decorating skills. Rooms that echoed with laughter and occasional crying. Rooms from which thunderstorms and sunsets were held in awe. Where pale night lights made the late night trip to the bathroom a breeze.
As I left Stephanie in her dorm room today, I hugged her and told her I love her. My voice quavered just a bit, almost betraying the emotion I was keeping at bay. This evening, as I pass by three empty bedrooms, I do not feel the need for such restraint.
The view from her room.
She has this whole side of the room all to herself.
Group selfie before goodbye.