I wish I could do it all over again.
It started eighteen years ago in a hospital room in Sioux Falls. The baby wasn’t breathing. It couldn’t end this fast and it didn’t. With some help from a doctor and a nurse, Benjamin started breathing. A beautiful noise. I have never been annoyed by the sound of a crying baby. Ever. I know the alternative.
So many memories.
Benjamin loves Halloween. In third grade he dressed up as a Ghostbuster. He was more interested in chasing people dressed up as ghosts than he was collecting candy. Such a fun night filled with laughter.
We have cooked hundreds of meals together. Ribs, giant hamburgers, pizza, salmon on a cedar plank, potet klub, sausage, you name it. He wore swimming goggles when we used onions because the onions made him cry. We won a few chili cook-offs here and there and he was always beyond proud. But the cooking was never about food. It was about spending time together.
Benjamin was so excited when I graduated with a doctorate. He told me he was glad my dissertation was finished so I would have more time to spend with him. Ouch. I thought of all the opportunities I missed writing a paper only a few people would ever read. I’d do better.
We ran together. The dirt trails and steep hills at Platte River State Park was his favorite setting. We always ended at the waterfall and put our overheated heads in the cold, flowing water.
I coached his soccer team for eight seasons. He wasn’t the best player and I wasn’t much of a coach. But we tried. I remember the game he scored his first career goal. I took him out so I could hug him. It was one of the best hugs ever.
During his freshman year of high school, Benjamin started debate. We waited fourteen years for him to find his thing and his people. The wait was over. He loved the work. He made so many new friends. And he was good. His team won the state championship all four years. He found his sweet spot in life. A parent’s dream come true.
St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota will be his new home. The school’s Scandinavian Gothic architecture and century old oak trees make it unique from the surrounding college-town and anywhere else for that matter. We visited colleges all over the country. St. Olaf was his favorite. Mine too. I can’t imagine a better place for his roots to turn into wings than this quirky, Lutheran liberals arts college. But it is five hours and fifteen minutes too far away.
Telling bedtime stories. Building train tracks. Inventing practical jokes. Arguing about politics. Cheering for the Arsenal on Saturday mornings. Lazy summer days at the lake. Chess. Playing Mario Cart. Monopoly. Dragging him to Husker football games. Talks around the fire pit or while walking the dogs. Watching elections. Our failed attempts at camping. I’ll miss it all.
It couldn’t end this fast but it did.I have an empty Mason jar that used to be full of colorful marbles to prove it. I wish I could do it all over again.