Touching Down by Sharon O’Donnell

Yes, I know that parenthood is all about raising your children so that they are independent and can fly off on their own, ready to face the world and be successful. And of course, I want that for my kids.  Any parent would. I’ve been lucky that my two oldest sons have succeeded while also staying close to home; they went to college 15 minutes away, and my oldest son’s first job was here in the same town that they grew up in, and the middle one has accepted a job here also to begin next year after he finishes his Master’s program. Although my nest was emptying, with only my 16-year-old still left a home, they weren’t flying very far away. We could still meet for lunch or dinner, and holidays were always easy to plan due to the lack of travel.

Recently, though, my oldest son, Bill, has decided to move six hours away to Washington, D.C.  in July. Not that far away from Raleigh, but still — it is AWAY.  He is the first one to leave this town we have all thought of as ‘home’.  He went to a Master’s program at the University of Virginia a few years ago, but we knew he’d be coming back home afterwards    — so Charlottesville didn’t have the decisiveness or permanence written all over it like D.C. does.  I can certainly understand the allure of Washington — it’s a mecca for young, single professionals, and one of his good friends from UVA already lives there.  And after a rather recent break-up with a girlfriend, it seems that this is the perfect time to want a change in his life.

I’m honestly excited for him and can’t wait to hear about his new life there. I didn’t realize when texting first became a big thing just how important it would be in my future. I looked at it as simply a convenience, a way to let my sons know I was there to pick them up from a practice or from a friend’s house. Then it became a way to contact them at college and to find out how they were doing after that big exam, a way to let me know they are okay.  Now texting has become almost a lifeline; we have a family group text that is the main way we all stay on the same page. Sure, it still has its share of texts about sports scores and recruiting news; yet, it also has photos of French quizzes finally mastered with congratulations from the rest of us, funny comments to each other, and details of our schedules.  With texting, I can have him live in D.C. and still feel like he’s only 15 minutes away. The bottom line is that I want him to be happy. I’ve been near him when he has been pretty low and depressed, and I know that his being happy is the most important thing.

So as he plans his big move, my middle son just left for a month in Prague for a course at an institute there that will go toward his Master’s degree. He graduated with an undergrad in accounting in December, and believe it or not — I just finally got the photos off the camera on Mother’s Day weekend. I hate to admit that I also just the photos off the camera of my oldest son’s undergrad graduation, which was in December of 2013. I need to do a better job of keeping up with things.

When my middle son was flying to Paris the other night — his first stop before Prague — I couldn’t sleep. I knew he was arriving at two in France at two in the morning our time, and so I stayed awake until then.  I went on the Internet to the Flight Tracking site where you can find flights and ‘see’ the plane as it travels, see it on its journey and as it reaches its destination.  I’ve always been a big believer in visualization — when I’m praying for people during certain times or events , I close my eyes and see in my mind’s eye where they are at that time, imagine them in their surroundings, and then I imagine God looking at them too, holding out His hand, taking them in the palm of His hand, holding them safely.  With this site, it helped me with that visualization process, to see in mind the plane touching down as it landed. And it helped give me peace.

Even though my sons might be flying — literally and figuratively — they still must touch down very now and then. To be grounded again, to rediscover their roots. And when they do, they need to find the faith and encouragement to venture to fly again.  That’s what home is for. That’s what I’m for.



A photo my middle son took on his first trip to Europe when he visited the Auschwitz Museum in Poland, a very  moving experience for him.



  My two oldest sons going on recent backpacking trip with my husband in the Grand Canyon.



                                                                                                                                     College graduation of my middle son in December.

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