A fledgling leaves the nest

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He left for his final training run here in Oregon around 10:30 a.m. I teased him about the intense heat. It’s supposed to be 97 degrees today, a slight downturn from yesterday’s 101.

Last night I made him some sockeye salmon on the grill, and last week we went for a Father’s Day hike up to just one more of the many beautiful places here in Oregon.

Part of me wants all of these memories to stick with him through the next four years of college. So that he longs for this place like a small ache.

We’re far from an empty nest with a 16-year-old high school junior and an 11-year-old headed to junior high. But the very first to fledge is leaving this week.

We have a week to get used to this idea, as his mother and I drive him across the country to his old high-school haunts and the college where he will live for the next four school years.

We’ve had 19 years to get used to this idea, but we spent them living instead of worrying about this day.

As I reflect on our life with him, I’m struck by a number of things. That children improve your lives goes without saying. But the joy they bring really is immeasurable.

We had our challenges. All those transitions. From nursing to solid foods. Preschool. Kindergarten. All day school. High School.

Cole was born in Hawaii, where we spent most of his first year. Then we moved back to Oregon.

We spent the next three years traveling to places like New Zealand and Bosnia, and then added a little brother to the mix.

We spent the next two years in Oregon where I was studing journalism. We added a little sister to the crowd, then we moved to Montana.

All through these transitions. Cole was either experiencing them or helping us through them with all the grace and agility of a first born.

After another move to Alaska and yet another to Chicago, I started to make promises that we would settle in to allow him to finish high school with his friends.

I was unable to keep that promise in the end, and still, with more grace than I had any right to expect, he finished his senior year across the country back where we started this adventure.

A final fishing trips with him before he sets off.

Joy, grace, laughter, tears, these are a few of the many things I have felt or experienced during the last nineteen years with my oldest son.

I know I’m losing him now for a little while as he makes a transition that I can’t accompany him on. I know that he’ll be busy forging a new life for himself, and I’m excited for him.

May the same joy and grace you have brought to my life also inhabit the new life you build for yourself.

God speed you on your way and bring you back around from time to time, my son.

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