My eldest son moved out of home January this year.
My second son moved out of home this week.
The crazy feeling I got this week though is that feeling that part of me, who I am, my identity, even my very being, has moved away and gone.
It is a hard thing to put into words though. I have spent the last week having the opportunity to make things right in my head, but it just doesn’t want to get around that concept.
Elijah and I loaded up the Pajero this week and drove from the Sunshine Coast (QLD) to the small town of Jindabyne (NSW). He has just taken a job there serving as a barman for the 1000s upon 1000s of visitors who will be heading for what looks like will be a bumper snow season in Australia’s Snowy Mountain region.
Leaving school on a Friday night, we stopped at Tweed Heads.
Day 2 was the journey to Port Macquarie.
Day 3 was to Canberra.
Day 4 to Jindabyne.
We took our time and had plenty of opportunity to chat. All the while I was thinking how proud and cool I thought my son was. I had plenty of time to think about why I had never thought of doing this myself. We had an incredible journey exploring all the possibilities that were about to happen, but most of it was speculation.
Elijah was always a little “quirky” or different to my other 2 sons. Maybe I am saying, he was different to me. He hardly ever got in trouble and early on, he would cry at the word “No!” being directed to his wandering hands as a baby. Not what I was known for as a child.
He was “Mr Tactile” and loved having things to touch, feel, put in his mouth and food was easy to feed to him, with allits different tastes and textures, but very hard to keep down and came back up everywhere with regularity.
As he grew, I grew frustrated at times at the way he saw the world and handled the inevitable discipline that had to be used. He just saw the world in black and white. Something was either right or wrong. If he had to be disciplined or given a talking to, he would just stare at me in that passive aggressive gaze that looks right through you. No argument, nor tears- just that blank look and “Yes. Yep. Uh huh.” And so on.
Everyone loves Elijah. As I do. He just had that knack of being well liked. A deep thinker, he would get his “lecture” or verbal from me. He would either agree, disagree, or like I mentioned, say nothing; but, a day or two later, his behaviour or attitude would change. Sometimes without any words, just letting actions do the talking.
He gets along with anybody. Despite some head scratching moments, he makes friends easy and finds “his people” quite naturally. Within a day of me leaving to fly back home, he had already found “his people”; already up at Perisher, carving up the snow with his new friends. He had a mate who was going down with him but took other work on the eve of the snow season beginning, so, I stepped up to do the drive down with him.
To do the things he had to do so quickly was a credit to his very methodical thinking and planning he took before our journey down. I think Belinda did an amazing job to get him ready. Despite our loungeroom being full of stuff to take down and then somehow packed neatly into the car, we were quite daunted with what lay ahead.
I was fortunate to be able to get up to Perisher with him for a few hours of skiing before I left. Thankful the weather for the week prior enabled an incredible chance to get in a few runs in at Perisher in the quiet mid-week conditions.
He taught himself to snowboard within a couple of hours while I was up the slopes by myself. I came back down, took him up the chairlift for the first time and we were able to hit the slopes together for a couple more hours.
Then, we said our goodbyes.
Silence can be a great thing.
That same blank stare was there again, but we did not have to speak.
I prayed for him.
I hugged him again.
Got in the car.
Drove 2 hours back to Canberra.
Flew back to Brisbane.
4 hours of silence in a car and in a plane. I had a blank stare that just went through people.
Part of who I am stayed behind in Jindabyne.
A part of me remained.
A part of me feels it is gone.
And I don’t know if I will get that back.
I felt lonely and lost and not sure who I was, or who I will be without him around for 3-4 months.
The familiar soon came back as I went back to work. My Grade 12s bring me back to reality very quickly, and I love them for that. We focused again and the bonds I have with many of them, are treasured moments- particularly when I miss Elijah.
I have job to do with them, for them.
There’s a small sense that the job with both my older sons is over. It will never end, so my own parents tell me.
1 to go!
Russell Modlin is in his 30th year as a Secondary English and Physical Education Teacher. He has taught in Mackay, Brisbane, Alice Springs and currently on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda (26 years) and they have three sons- 2 have finished High School, 1 to go!
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found atwww.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html