January 29, 2020
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My son will come home, but something has changed

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

We dropped Ford, our oldest, at college last month, and, stupidly, I cleaned his room soon after (not recommended). When I came out of Ford’s room crying, his younger brother, Owen (16), said, “What’s wrong with you?”

“Ford’s not coming home to play with Legos,” I said.

By the look on Owen’s face, this already seemed obvious to him. Old news, if you will.

But for so many days, in the wake of Ford’s absence, I had buoyed myself with other people’s reminders that he will be back and that “he’s not gone forever.”

This advice appeared to be true. Ford would indeed be back soon for a family friend’s wedding.

But when I cleaned his room that day, I realized for the first time that although he is coming back, he isn’t coming back to play with the Legos. He will never be back to use the matchbox cars lined up on his bookshelf, which I was now dusting.

My son would come home for sure, but something was gone just the same, and that needed to be recognized.

With each toy I picked up in Ford’s room, I heard echoes of times gone by, times that won’t return, even as my adult son surely will.

Lifting a toy Darth Vader to dust underneath brought the sounds of a boyhood Ford promising to make his bed for a week if he could just get “one more action figure.”

Touching the small statue of a football player unleashed the sounds of Ford and his brothers wrestling in the front yard.

A toy Mustang heralded memories of little Ford sitting on his knees and pushing cars around our hallway rug, which served as his racetrack.

A board game shoved under the bed sent echoes of Ford running in the door after school to see if his new game had come in the mail.

And the Legos! The thousands and thousands of bricks each told me a story of the past, a time that is Not. Coming. Back.

And that’s what’s sad.

It’s not Ford being gone or starting his own life. I’m happy for Ford and what awaits him.

It’s echoes of a time that has passed that brings the tears.

And yet, standing at the kitchen counter that day, with a dust rag in my hand, Owen looked at my tear-stained face with utter confusion.

“I don’t play with Legos anymore either, Mom,” he said matter of factly. “And Ford will be back.”

Yes, but my Little Ford is gone. I see that now.

And soon it will be the same with Owen.

Sarah Smiley of Bangor is the author of “Got Here As Soon As I Could” and “Dinner With The Smileys.”


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