Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sad Goodbyes, Good Hospitality

We managed to check only 3 bags!      Hugging his "wheels" goodbye.
Gladness and sadness are emotional extremes that I did not really know could happen simultaneously. Or maybe they really can't.  Maybe together they just make for a moment by moment roller coaster ride of the heart. Either way, I know I have felt them both, and seemingly at the same moments, in the last couple of weeks. Sending the oldest off to college is both the happiest and saddest thing that has ever happened to me.  To us, actually.  Together Robert and I have thrilled over the community, the academics, the opportunities, the fellowship, and the warmth (and I don't mean the Texas temperatures!) of Baylor.  And together we have dissolved into tears talking about him and praying for him back here at home.  This is much harder than I ever imagined, and much better than I ever imagined, too.
A generous welcome goody-bag, an exuberant move-in crew, and God's Word to greet us.
We got to Dallas late, since I had to teach all day.  So late, in fact, that they gave our very inexpensive rental car to someone else, and they were totally out of other cars as well. Fortunately, there is always a company willing to rent you a car even at 10pm.  Tip: Instead of walking up to the counter and trying to rent a car on the spot, use your phone or computer to book one online from the airport terminal and THEN go the counter to claim your reservation! We learned this the hard, and very expensive way.

Tired and very hungry, we opted for the Wendy's drive through ~ bun-less burgers and fries.  It was not the best decision, but we were kind of desperate and I nixed the drive-two-miles-down-the-road-to-IHOP-sit-down-and-wait option.  We had to be up and out of the hotel by 7am in order to make Kory's 9am move-in time, and it was already 11pm! I was accused of being a party-pooper.

We made it to Waco at exactly 9am, followed the move-in signs to his dorm, and were greeted by 30 or so students in matching t-shirts, clapping as we pulled up, and shouting "Welcome to Baylor!" They warmly greeted us, introduced themselves, and immediately began unloading Kory's bags from our SUV, taking them two flights up to his new room. A welcome goody-bag awaited Kory from one of his mentors in the Leadership LLC (Living-Learning Center), as well as Scripture written out on the LLC agreement. Kory applied to be a part of this learning community after we attended a workshop about it at orientation.  Through it, he will get a minor in Leadership, mentor a child in the Waco Public School District, and have countless other opportunities to grow as leader by interacting with leaders in all different fields.  It also allows for a scholarship AND a suite-style dorm rather than a community-style bath.
Home away from home
Since he only packed three bags consisting of mostly clothes and shoes, we had quite a lot of shopping to do.  It's too bad we couldn't do the shopping before being greeted by the move-in crew, because we DID have to carry all of this and MORE up to his room over the next couple of days...

Good thing my dad showed up with his suburban.  Our car wouldn't transport it all!
 Aunt Melinda was free for the day, so she joined us for the shopping adventures, as did my dad.  You should have seen us with two shopping carts at both Wal-Mart and Target. 2 shopping carts + 5 people up and down the aisles.  Yes, we were THAT family.  Bed Bath & Beyond only required one shopping cart, but as you can see it was overflowing.

(Please forgive all of these tedious details!  This is as much for my love of archiving as for your enjoyment and and insider's view. I suppose aspiring parents of college students might be interested, though?)
Dorm room transformation! 
 I have to tell you that it was so wonderful to spend two days with Kory getting him settled into his new room and home away from home. It definitely satisfied something in this Mama's heart to do that and not be rushed.  Even when Kory had obligations on campus and for his Leadership program, Robert and I enjoyed going out and having lunch or dinner together and then grabbing a few more items from the various dorm-room-shopping-and-packing lists we had. One morning we even went for a run from our hotel and all the way around the campus seeing the various campus buildings, the marching band out practicing, and lots of other "welcome week" preparations.  It was so comforting to see his new surroundings and get a feel for the place for a couple of days.

And maybe the icing on this cake-of-comfort I was experiencing was this:
Meeting Judge Starr
 On our first day there, and after doing most of Kory's dorm room preparations, we decided to walk across campus to the Starbucks in the library. (Biggest Starbucks on any college campus is what I hear!)  As we walked back to the dorm to meet my dad, we were stopped by this man who welcomed us and came over to introduce himself.  He turned out to be Judge Ken Starr ~ the president of Baylor. (You might also remember him from the investigations he carried out during the Clinton Administration and the impeachment that led to!) He spent about 15 minutes with us, learning our names and where we were from.  When he found out that we were from Amherst, MA, he told us a story about a recent visit he had from a Williams College (Amherst College's biggest rival just down the road from here) professor. The man had marveled at the kindness of the faculty, staff, and students, and commented over and over at the friendly, loving interactions he witnessed between students and faculty. After a couple of days he came to Judge Starr and said he had figured it out. "It must be the 'faith-thing'," he said.  President Starr assured him it was.

He asked what had taken us to Amherst, and when Robert said that we had come 14 years ago to plant a church, he stopped, walked toward Robert and with both hands grabbed Robert's hand and said very sincerely, "Thank you for doing that." Then he came to me, looked me straight in the eye, grabbed my hands tight, and said the same thing.

He had his assistant (who took our picture) write down the name of our church as well as my email, so that I could send him the photos I had taken.  She emailed me within two hours, saying how much she and Judge Starr enjoyed meeting us, and to please have Kory contact her if there was ever anything he needed.  Comforting indeed.

We talked a bit more about a mutual friend ~ Ian McCaw ~ who had come to Baylor 10 years ago as the Athletic Director after serving as Athletic Director at UMass here in Amherst.  We had been so sad to see the McCaws leave, but he was thrilled to have him at Baylor.  He couldn't say enough about the gracious, humble attitude of Ian, but the report was certainly no surprise to us!
Boots, bears, and gluten free buns!
 We visited the bookstore right before the President's Picnic which is where we knew we would be saying our goodbyes.  I had to take a picture of these boots and text it to my dad who knows the owner/founder of the Game-Day Boot Co.  I really think it's time for my dad to get a pair of these, but he'll have to make room in his UT Longhorn heart in order to sport any Baylor gear.  He balked when we gave him a Baylor Dri-Fit Nike workout shirt and "Baylor Grandpa" mug for Father's day, since we happened to be with him that day this summer while in town for Baylor's orientation.  I think he's coming around...

After the bookstore, we stopped by to see the bears ~Judge Joy and Judge Lady.

When we arrived at the picnic, we found Kory who had already eaten an amazing BBQ meal complete with a gluten free bun. (Baylor is one of the top ranked schools for accommodating the GF lifestyle!) He was surrounded by friends he had met at Line Camp earlier that summer, and he introduced us to each one.  Since we had to drive back to Dallas that night, we decided to skip the long lines for food and leave him in the company of friends with a fun night ahead.
A final goodbye. (And yes, I now have to wear glasses.  Bifocals to be exact.  Doesn't that just "go" with being old enough to have a child in college?  Sigh...)
After hugs and "I love yous," Robert and I walked to the parking lot.  We had been heartily encouraged NOT to have our child walk to the car with us for a long emotional goodbye by some very wise Baylor Parent Orientation Presenters, and I'm glad we took their advice.  I was totally fine until we got in the car and Robert grabbed my hands to pray for Kory.  We committed him to the Lord and asked for his protection and blessing through tears of sadness, grief, gratitude and gladness.  Hardest, best thing we've ever done.

I cried through a beautiful breakfast at the Dallas Sheraton at the Galleria (Thank you, Pedro, for the incredible accommodations!)  the next morning, and again as the plane took off to take me back home without my firstborn, and again as we crawled back into our own bed that night.  I did not realize how hard it would be to send off into adulthood this kid whom I birthed, snuggled with a cup of milk after every nap, taught to read and write, add and subtract, write an essay, decline Latin nouns, and helped to build countless intricate Lego sets.  The one who always tucked in his shirts and wore a watch, a knife and a belt every day until he became a teenager. The one who followed all the rules, and read World War II books over and over and every single Hardy Boys novel. The one who loves his friends and traveling and talking about Jesus and is just generally happy, positive, and delightful to be around.

But I also began to think of the few sets of parents we know personally who have recently buried their firstborn children due to illness or accident or suicide.  It struck me how they would certainly give anything to do the thing I had just done.  And so, while the tears of some small form of grief still fall at times, I thank God for the incredible privilege of sending a happy, healthy, godly son off to college, and into his future and God's calling on his life.

This excerpt from Henri Nouwen on "hospitality" was sent to me by our dear friend, Gregory, and it has been such a source of encouragement and truth in the last few days:

Yes, I want to be a good host to all my guests ~ most importantly of all my own children, and letting them go is one of the best ways I can do that.


Anonymous said...

Also, Ken Starr graduated from Sam Houston High School a year ahead of Jack. His father was a church of Christ preacher here in San Antonio and Jack remembers hearing him preach many times.

Melanie said...

He was one of the kindest, most sincere, joyful men I have ever met ~ Jack being at the top of that list as well! He and Melinda talked about Abilene Christian, and he patted her cheeks when he found out she had gone there! Ha!

Anonymous said...

Meant to tell you that I remember so well dropping you off at your dorm room a lifetime ago at U.T. Driving home to S.A., I kept thinking that Austin seemed like a zoo...but I don't think you had that feeling with Kory. We're so happy for him!
Love, K&J

Unknown said...

Tears after reading this... Happy and sad tears.

Love you!!!

sweetly broken said...

Thanks for sharing ALL of this experience, Melanie. I for one, enjoy details!! I shed tears as I read the part about meeting the President of Baylor and his kind words to you. People like that are like God's hands extended to us in ministry, reminding us God sees, He knows, He is pleased. God bless you in this new stage of releasing babies into adulthood. I'm only a few years away from that, and I think about it often. I pray our experience is as wonderful as yours!!

sweetly broken said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melanie said...

Thank you, Kristen, for your words of encouragement and truth! So sorry for the delay in responding. Life=Crazy. I'm sure you know!