With all the excitement of everything going on with the house, I never had a chance to tell you about Number 3’s trip to Zones.
I first thought there were three reasons I wanted to send Number 3 to this meet.
First, he would be competing with not only with the top swimmers in Connecticut, but the top swimmers from states up and down the East Coast.
While he is a very good swimmer, I wanted him to see that there is always someone better than him. Going to this meet is a humbling experience.
To give you an example of the caliber of swimmers that are there, look at the meet records.
I know if you aren’t a swimmer or the parent of a swimmer these mean nothing to you.
So look a little closer.
There are future Olympians at this meet. It’s a big deal.
So that was reason number 1.
Reason number 2 is that I wanted Number 3 to be on his own. To fend for himself. To be out of his comfort zone. To realize he will be just fine even when there are a lot of unknowns.
And then I wanted him to have fun.
But there was another reason I needed him to go.
I didn’t realize what it was until he left…
When I was a sophomore in high school, my little brother was diagnosed with leukemia. He was one and a half at the time.
For the next year, he underwent chemo, radiation, and when those didn’t work, a bone marrow transplant.
Two months before his third birthday, he relapsed for the final time. There was nothing more that could be done.
So we made the most of every day he had left.
Two weeks after his third birthday, my little brother died, at home, in my parents’ bed.
It was terrible, and I have blocked out most memory of that time.
I don’t remember a whole lot about that day except for a couple things.
One thing I remember very vividly was the funeral director coming to our house to take my brother to the funeral home.
I stood up in my room on the second story and watched out my window as he took my brother, put him into his car, and drove away with him.
I will never, ever forget that moment. I won’t forget what it looked like and I won’t forget what it felt like.
While I will never forget it, I don’t think of it often.
But on the Wednesday that Number 3 left for the meet, I had to drive him to the mall where the bus was making a stop to pick up kids who lived in the area.
Number 3 was not too concerned about leaving. He was more concerned about getting on the bus and who he was going to sit with.
Within seconds of getting out of the car, he was on the bus. He gave me a quick hug. He didn’t really want anyone to see him hugging his mom, so I felt lucky to have even gotten a little squeeze in.
I had told him in the car on the way to meet the bus that I was pretty sure I was going to cry when he left. A lot.
He told me, “Mom. You just gotta fight it.”
I fought it until he was on the bus.
I went back and sat in my car.
The tears started.
The bus drove away.
And then I lost it.
And every feeling I had when the funeral director came and drove my baby brother out of the driveway for the last time came flooding back to me.
I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed in the mall parking lot.
And that’s when I realized my issues about letting go of the kids stem well beyond just having a hard time with them growing up and leaving the nest.
They are connected to fear and grief, too. It’s unresolved, I realized.
So while this opportunity allowed Number 3 to confront some of his issues, it also made clear to me what one of mine still is.
It took a little while to wipe those thoughts from my head.
What if something happens? What if I never see him again? Maybe I shouldn’t have put him on that bus! I should have kept him with me!
He obviously survived the trip.
In fact, he more than survived it.
He had a blast.
He swam fairly well. Not as fast as he would have liked.
But that’s okay. It wasn’t really about the times.
It was about the experience.
Number 4 and I drove up for a night so we could see him swim.
The swimmers are required to hang together as a group, so there’s not really much opportunity for parents to spend time with them.
I got a couple of quick hellos in the bleachers over the course of 24 hours, and that was pretty much it.
The rest of the time I spent just watching him from afar.
It is a rare occasion when I get to see him at a swim meet not as his coach, but as his mom.
It was nice. I observed every second of him down on deck that I could.
He was smiling and laughing and talking.
I watched him joke around and hang out with his friends and of course I watched him swim.
I watched his roommate stand at the end of the pool, wait for him to warm down after his race, and then walk back with him to where the team was sitting.
He made friends last weekend that he will have for the rest of his swimming life.
When I picked him up at the mall where the bus dropped him off last Sunday, he got into the car exhausted, but happy.
“Mom?” he said to me. “Thanks for letting me go to Zones.”
I’m happy he had fun and I’m happy he was appreciative.
But the more I think about it, I think I’m the one who really should be thanking him.