Saturday, August 14, 2010

Don't Blink

In our culture, leaving home is as natural as coming home from the hospital as a newborn. It is what happens to most of us as we become adults. For those lucky enough to go to college, it happens around age 18. Kids are born to us, they spend most of their formative years learning how to be, how to get along, who they are and who they will become. Then they leave us to find out who they really are, who they really want to be. They find the path that will take them onward into their future. It really is the way it should be. Then why am I feeling so blue?

Today we move Devin, our 18 year old, into his dorm at the University of South Carolina. We‘re opting for the later shift, hoping that most of the kids will be moved in already. He is moving in with is best friend, a guy he went to high school with, who he spent his free time with for years. His bedroom is packed with what he will take with him. His modest clothes, his stereo, his computer, his new little microwave, new sheets, towels and blankets, his bathroom “caddy” for shampoo, soap, etc. It is the stuff of moving away, of being on your own, of independence. It’s a good thing, right? Then why, when I was vacuuming the hallway this morning and I passed that pile of his new and old possessions, was I so sad? It’s not like he’s moving very far. It is only a thirty-five-minute drive. Heidi takes it every day she goes into campus to work. It’s not like he won’t be coming home some weekends or that he won’t be coming back for winter break and summer vacation next year.

I’ll still see him. I’ll still call him and meet him for dinner (although Heidi suggested that I don’t call so much as text message, “It’s how most kids communicate these days.”).

But it won’t be the same. It will never be the same again. Devin will not be living here. He’ll be back, but it will more like visiting. So…

There are all these thoughts running through my mind. All of these concerns. All these questions. Have I done a good job as a parent? Have done what I could to teach him right from wrong? Does he know not to lie? Is he grateful? Does he know how to pray? Did I do all that I could to make sure that Devin is kind, responsible, safe? Have I been a good role model? Have I told him enough that I love him. Have I shown him? Does he know that I am there for him no matter what?

Heidi said that she was listening to a radio station yesterday where there is a lot of call-in kind of talk. A woman asked about advice for parents who just had their first baby. One response that stuck with Heidi was simply, “Don’t blink.”

I blinked, you guys. Because it was just such a short time ago that we brought Devin home after his adoption. And we weren't sure what to do with a new baby - except to love him. Devin was going to the lake with me in his diaper to watch the sunset, and I was chasing him around our beloved tree in a suped up game of peek-a-boo. I could make him laugh from his little belly. I can see those loose blond curls and bright blue eyes. I can hear that laugh. It is the most beautiful music.

It was just a short time ago that he was playing with his baby brother’s toes when we brought Colin home from the hospital; when he could catch a butterfly with his bare hands. I remember when he gave up his beloved bottle and we made a solemn ceremony out of it and when he rode a bike for the first time and when he introduced himself at the area pool with, “I’m Devin, and I’m an amazing child.” I remember when he cried when he caught a lizard but broke off its tail. And when he caught his first few fish off the dock.
I remember when he went to Kindergarten and I caught a glimpse of him at school outside on a really hot day practicing for a fire drill. The sight of him so grown up, patiently waiting in the uncomfortable heat for his teacher and his classmates to get it right so they could go inside. He didn’t know I was watching him. He had gone from little-preschool-kid-cute to little-boy handsome. And I remember thinking, where is Devin? Where did that preschool boy go? And I cried. Not in loss or sorrow. In amazement I guess.

I remember us singing silly songs on the way home from school in the car and reading bedtime stories and our secret handshake before bed. Pokemon cards and video games, shell collections and rock collections. Marco polo, pogo sticks and soccer in the meadow.

Then skateboards and loud music and having a girlfriend. Then high school and his first car and his first job and proms and a broken heart. Heidi and I started going to bed earlier. Devin stayed out later.

I remember the feelings I had on the day my dad dropped me off at IU. I tried to be tough, but it was scary – this new freedom. Dev must be having some of the same thoughts. Freedom is great, but it is scary too. He can come and go as he pleases, but he’ll have to get himself up in the morning. He can come in at night when he wants but he won’t get to kiss his mom good night like has always done. He’ll make wonderful new friends, but he won’t be living in his old hood near his beloved lake.

And I blinked, you guys, because he is moving away today. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. We have been planning for this day for his whole life. But it’s here and it came too fast and I am going to miss living with him and I don’t know what to do with these emotions.

I write for many reasons: to understand, to organize, to feel, to remember, to envision, to hope. I guess it is for all these reasons that I am writing this.

Don’t blink.


Chris Hass said...

What a wonderfully sincere post! I can't imagine surviving a day like this without crying. I think I'd be an emotional wreck.
This makes me think of those few special moments in life when you catch yourself thinking "This is a really big moment. I need to make sure never to forget it." Too often, though, I've found that while I remember the gist of these moments I forget the tiny details, the feelings, that I want most to remember. I'm glad you got it down in writing. Posts like this will be so important to all of you as the years go by. Imagine if you and I could revisit memories such as these through the eyes of our parents. It would be one of my most cherished possessions.

Brenna said...

I'm crying, and vowing not to blink! I'm just thinking about how 17years from now I will be where you are, and 17 years seems like a long time...but I'm sure it did for you too. Thanks for the advice, and the reminder to cherish each moment!

Love your writing and what a incredible gift it is to have these memories on paper! Praying for you as you send Devin off to collage :)

Edschutz said...

Tim, I just did a search on you, and it lead me here...How fitting --- our 18 year old son, John, will be dropped off at college, some 40 minutes away this week, Thursday. Your writing put into words the emotions I have been feeling for sometime now. You are obviously talented, and its touching to read about someone you knew 35 years ago is so happy with their life. My search is a result of attending Mrs. Kadar funeral yesterday. I was going back to the "region" that day anyway, so I thought I would attend. Rick had call be a couple weeks ago, out of the blue, so when I heard Mrs. K. passed away, I thought I should go. Glad I did. We reminised about old times in Meadowdale (and Dune Acres!!)with Gene. Your name came up, and Rick said "he's probably a teacher somewhere". "Let's look him up". Tag--you're it!

Tim O'Keefe said...

Hey Schutzie! I hope that you look back at this. It was GREAT to hear from you. Leave me some contact info or email at It would cool to catch up.

Tom T said...

Great writing that brings back wonderful and sometimes not so fond memories of many everyday events which are often the most memorable in our family relationships.


Travis said...

If they were not asleep I would run to hug my boys right now after reading this! As it is I will have to wait for morning. My oldest boy starts Kindergarten this year, your story of seeing Devin brings a little water to my eyes. It is so amazing to see the pictures of the boys! Could it be that they are really that old...

I have modeled my life as a teacher after you and learned so much about being a father from watching you with your boys so many years ago. This post teaches me more lessons. I will try my best not to blink:-)

Alan Wieder said...

Hi Tim
This goes with your last post perfectly. Love that you and Heidi are partners forever. Love that Dev is going to school and you cry. Love how your family is in the World.

Edschutz said...


I sent you an email on Sunday. My email address is

Teresa said...

I know that you feel like you blinked, but in reading you post I think most would agree you really have lived your time with him. I know you to be one who lives and breathes what he believes to be most important. I can see through your amazing family that you have done that. I think a certain horse lover (who was in your class last year) wrote a poem that right now seems so fitting right now.

louise said...

I remember many of the days of Devin growing up that you wrote about so beautifully. It is hard to believe he is starting college! I remember myself crying when packing up Alex's bassinet, proud of his growth but grieving that he would never be an infant again. You captured the essence of parenthood so beautifully. You have been and will always be the most loving, generous father. My best wishes to Devin as he begins his new life in college, and my love to all of you.

Scott and Malisa Johnson said...

Oh Tim! I couldn't have needed this reminder more today. I'm a list-maker. I like to write down my "to-dos" and check them off as I go. With the beginning of school comes so many lists. Its always this season in the year when life seems hectic, and returning to work as a mom of three certainly has made me task oriented. Thanks for the reminder to cherish the sweet time with my kids. I will definitely be thinking of this post as I get my sweet Emily ready for Kindergarten each morning, and cherish my time with all three.