I am over the moon for him, even though that small knot I swallow over is growing in the back of my throat, telling me there is sadness lurking somewhere just around the corner for me. It's that Finished word and that Forever word. Those words slinking up on me. Today, forever means never again. Finished means it can't be redone, relived, rewound, there can be no regrets. I have no regrets and I know he has none either. I know he finished it all as he wanted, the first time. So there is no turning back, no wistful thinking on his part. But I'm not ready for this chapter ending, this Forever. I am wistful with this Finished word, with this Finished feeling. I am ready to turn back the pages of this book. Just for now.
Then I'm pulling myself back into the moment. I am fully here to experience these last 8th grade moments. There is laughter and silly banter as I try coaxing him into wearing an over-the-top preppy outfit for these last few hours of middle school. He is on the edge of considering but chooses not to. He is making his last 8th grade lunch with roast beef and swiss cheese, he is finishing his last 8th grade worksheet, ("I forgot about it last night, Mom!"), he is tossing 8th grade photocopied sheets once tucked carefully into plastic sleeves away, he is packing up his last middle school backpack. He is slipping socked feet into athletic shoes and he is smiling as he walks out the door to meet Dan and Carson and Jake for the last middle school morning walk up Grantwood Drive for his last day of middle school. And there's that Forever word again, still waiting for me.
Instead there have been genuine compliments and Junior Honor Society, Wildcat football and track. There are close friends with comparable values, and it is all his doing. It is all his personality, his honesty, his strengths (and weaknesses), his daily choices to follow truth, that have brought him this far in middle school.
Oh, he is not perfect. He is not more amazing than other young men his age. But he is mine and I am proud. Yes, his bedroom is a tangle of towels and wrinkled clothing (Clean? Dirty?) and books and shoes and Nike socks. His desk is hard to find under piles of this and that important teenage stuff. His nest of duvet and sheets and pillows are a crowning knot in the middle of his bed. He can be a couch potato with that remote in hand. He can be snarly with sister and older brother and Mom and Dad. I would never suggest that this day means more than any other 8th grader's last day of middle school.
Today, he will become a young man in my mind's eye. He was yesterday, and the day before, too, but this Last Day mark, this Ending Of, this Closing Chapter, this whispers Change to me. So the tears fall gently. I feel them spilling over and allow them to roll down. It will not last, this feeling. Tomorrow there will be joy at the End of Year ceremony. So I allow the sad to wash over me for this moment. To feel it fully, to embrace the welling up, to experience the throat knotting into a lump of sorrow for this day's Finished and Forever.
I am proud and the love that rolls down my face in the form of tears will not last. It will be soon replaced, with smiles and eagerness, for what-is-yet-to-come, and yearning for what he will accomplish in the next four years. So my heart whispers goodbye to this 8th grade year and my brain reminds me it is the Best Ever ending for this chapter. Finished Forever with his Best. With his best Ever! And that brings me a smile.