Sending the boy off to school. The countdown continues.

We're shopping and packing. We're having celebratory dinners together at all our favorite restaurants. The kid leaves to go off to college next Saturday and I'm already getting a bit mopey and feeling useless.  I've been hanging out with the kid since his forever and I'm actually going to miss getting up at 6:30 to drive him to cross country practice and driving halfway across Texas just to see him run for 18 minutes. His crew of friends are all peeling off this week to go on their own college adventures. His friends of thirteen or fourteen years are all bright and motivated. They are dispersing to good schools all over the country. Some are taking a semester off to sail out in the Pacific. A few are going to school here in Texas at A&M and UT. Few are going as far away as Ben. His school is 1850 miles from Austin in the northern reaches of New York state.

The whole idea of his leaving is really starting to sink in as we toss last minute stuff in the laundry and I teach him for the 100th time how to tie a necktie. The transition is effecting everything. I skipped swim practice so I could have breakfast with him at least one more time. I've lost my motivation to go to work, write a blog or head out for social functions because I want to hold on to every minute. It's almost pathetic.  He's ready to go, his mom is stoically spearheading the "pre-production" and I'm hovering like a lost art director, trying to figure out how to reverse time or at least slow it down since there are so many things I still feel as though I need to teach him.

But friends of the family who have known both of us for as long as Ben's been alive are quick to assure me that the boy is much brighter than I've ever been and as worldly and knowledgeable as they come. He understands already that compound interest is your best friend and/or your worst enemy. He know that the measure of a person is not how well that person treats you but how well he treats the "help." He flosses his teeth. He writes "thank you" notes without parental prodding. He truly understands calculus, statistics and, at least, the rudiments of physics. He's already made an award winning video and he's already earned money for being smart.

He has done things at 18 that I didn't get around to until my mid thirties. Opened a brokerage account, made good equities investments, turned down bad jobs, learned to drink black coffee, tasted vintage champagnes and developed a taste for various bleu cheeses. Given me business advice that worked out well. Bounced around plot ideas for my next book with me. Reined in my tendency to go off into something without all the needed information, and so much more.

I've been spending my time buying him warm, winter clothes. Gloves, boots, hats, sweatshirts, jackets, vests, parkas, ski jackets and even long underwear. He'll be able to pack and carry onto an airline only a tiny fraction of this giant, new (and to him, alien) wardrobe and the rest I'll have to ship to him. I've actually gone so far as to call the college to make sure they have adequate heating for the class rooms and dorms.

I keep telling myself that when he is safely ensconced in his scholarly enclave I'll regain my recently wavering motivation and hit the business and writing with renewed vigor. I guess we'll see. But if the blog seems a little spotty or "off" for the next week I can pretty much assure you that it's a reflection of my state of mind. I'm sure it will all straighten itself out. I'll rediscover an "amazing" lens or camera system and we'll be off and running.

Funny that the week prior to Ben's departure I'm busier with jobs that I've been for most of the Summer. But I don't regret the work because it keeps me busy and alleviates the constant hovering that I seem to be doing when I am momentarily directionless. It also bolsters the checking account which, I am certain, has just taken the first of many painful beatings. Ah, the life of the freelance artist...But seriously,

I know that nothing will ever be the same again.

On another note I came to realize that Ben has observed my progress and immersion in photography for quite a while so I took the opportunity at a recent lunch to ask him where he thought everything was going and what was next for the world of photography. He deflected my question a few times and then he pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and put it on the table. He glanced at it, pointed and remained quiet.

I'd been pressing him to come into the studio and select a camera to take to college. I've opened up the cabinet doors and asked, "film? Digital? Leica? Olympus?" The final answer was the iPhone. He's seen the trajectory of photography and it doesn't interest him (or any of his circle of friends) at all. It's not his "cup of tea."  That makes me feel conflicted. On one hand I trust his instincts 100%. If he isn't into photography nothing I can say at this point will change his mind. On the other hand I can't help wondering if, in this respect, I've been a poor role model and have only shown him the mechanical and business side of photography but have forgotten how to transmit the joy of it.

I didn't buy my first camera until my junior year in college. Only time will tell.

One week until the giant adventure begins.

To all of you who've successfully launched your children and are reading this blog post as though it is in the rear view mirror: congratulations. To all of you who have this journey in front of you: Good Luck!


Frank Grygier said...

Young people have an instinctual need to open the doors of life.I believe Ben will find an amazing life on the other side.

Don said...

Yes, you've been a good role model.

And I feel your pain and anguish. In 2 years, our Skyler will graduate and start on his journey.

I'm missing him already.

Nick said...

I'm one for whom this is ahead. But not far ahead. And reading this I can feel the tears welling and have a sick feeling in my stomach. Good luck!

Jim said...

I understand your wavering but I'm sure you've done a great job preparing him for life on his own. I often wondered about my kids and how good a dad I'd been but they are both doing well and reassure me that I did fine. BTW, Where in the northern reaches of NY is he headed? I ask because most people (even in NY state) refer to any thing north of NYC as "upstate" or "Northern NY". I live in Northern NY which is actually north of the Adirondack Mountains near the Quebec border. Is he coming that far north?

Dave Jenkins said...

You do the best you can and then you let them go. When our children were young my wife and I consciously worried "How on earth are they ever going to make it? Everything is getting so expensive!" (This was in the late '70s!)

So how are they making it? None of them chose my career path and all three are making it far better than I ever did.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi JIm, Ben asked me not to make a public announcement. He's researching privacy issues, etc. But it's a private, four year college nestled somewhere right in between Albany and Buffalo about three hours drive north of the big city.

Not quite at the northern reaches.

David Anderson said...

Hey Kirk,

If you're up visiting and want to see Buffalo (with a fellow Texan), hit me up. I can show you all the places that don't make very good southern food. ;)


Jim said...

We way up north NYers call that central NY.

Patrick Dodds said...

Interesting juxtaposition of this post and Ben's observations therein, and you last one.

Michael Gatton said...

I feel for you, and I'm a good 2 years away from the same situation. Sounds like you've done an amazing job nurturing a fine young man. Congratulations and sympathies!

Anonymous said...

I went to Syracuse and my daughter went to Cornell. If he's going to that general area, he'll see/feel a lot of "cool" weather. Not Texas anymore Toto!
It's one of the biggest and best adventures ever and he'll be different, for the better.
Take it from one whose oldest grand child is a year away from college.It's harder on you..at first.

Mike Rosiak said...

Aw, you're an old softie, Kirk.

And good for you for being so, and not trying to hide it.

Ben is lucky, and I'll bet he knows it very well. You are lucky, and I believe you've know it for a long time.

Best wishes to Ben! (and to his mopey Dad)

David Lobato said...

I was a single parent when each of my sons started college in Colorado. I was very emotional both times, so very difficult to leave them far away. it was a long lonely drive back to Houston each year. Then to see their rooms with some of their things at home. And the quiet, it hurts for awhile.

All I can say is get busy, very busy, to quell the memories for the next few weeks. New memories will be forth coming with your son. You will be surprised at his success and proud as can be many times over.

A concealed but handy box of tissues is a good idea. Hand me one, pls.

Anonymous said...

Ben is right, the future of photography is the iPhone.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said: "All I care about these days is painting—photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing."

Mike Smith said...

Central NY State in winter? You know those warm clothes you bought him? Get warmer ones. (I went to college in Schenectady.) Also, consider snowshoes.

Michael Matthews said...

I don't think there's any question that you and your wife have achieved high marks in parenting. It's equally clear that your son has an abundance of talent and a strong grip on reality -- two things which often don't go together. He'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I feel your pain. We have gone through it 3 times. We just returned from moving one of our children to St Louis for med school. We could tell she would miss us. We moved our son into the dorms at UT few days ago and he said he would see us at Thanksgiving even though we only live 5 miles away... be prepared for your son to spread his wings and be off on his own. One can never predict what they will do but you can be assured it will work out all right.

Stan said...

I stumbled across this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education blog and thought you might like to read it. Some good comments at the end, too.


Claire said...

A lot of strength to you and Belinda. My kid is turning 6 and I'm already panicky at the thought of her leaving... one day.
You guys did a terrific job and Ben seems armed to do very well. He'll make you proud. And yes, his absence will probably hurt like a bitch. Above poster is right : get very, very busy;

Bill Bresler said...

We dropped Anne, our firstborn, off at Michigan State back in 2001. It's only an hour or so away, and Sue and I cried all the way home. 2 years later, we dropped son Robert at Albion College, about an hour and a half away. Sue and I high-fived each other and stopped for a great dinner and a couple glasses of wine.
It's pretty clear that Ben is a helluva good, and interesting kid. This will leave a hole in your hearts, but it's also a door opening for you and the Mrs. I'll be thinking of all 3 of you.

Jimmy Reina said...

Many years ago, someone said to me, "Once you become a parent, you never get another full night's sleep".
I didn't get this until my daughter was born.

My Mother used to say that, because
she anticipated the three of us returning to school, every Labor Day brought on a form of depression- we wouldn't be hanging around the house all of time.

I didn't get it until my daughter left for college. After that, she started living at her boyfriend's house.

The lack of their presence is an ailment, there is only one remedy, and I am in constant need of a dose.

Rufus said...

Best of wishes to your boy and his journey.

Interesting to hear of his apathy toward photography and photo gear.

The notion of "image taking" is running out of steam it seems to me. The younger and future generations take it all for granted. The democratisation and dissemination of photo and video taking is somehow devaluing it. We are now so bombarded with imagery that we don't seem to care how they are made anymore.

Raymond Charette said...

I know the feeling. Even after a year, I still linger for news from either of my daughters.

theaterculture said...

He'll be great. You'll be fine. After a few semesters of going away, you'll start to feel him appreciating you and Belinda in ways he didn't when he saw you every day. He may join the Young Libertarians club on campus just to annoy you, but that'll pass.

And, if you feel at all like having a snit at him for leaving, there's always March. When March comes, and you're in Texas, and he's in mid-state NY, you can smile into the phone and say "no, you really made the right decision."

Signed, a guy who started an educational journey almost two decades (?!?!?) ago that has taken him from Southern California, to NY, to the Mid-West, and now to Canada, and whose mother still enjoys the March whine a little more than she'd care to admit...

Ron Nabity said...

I know the feeling. When my oldest son was leaving for college, I cried the morning he was leaving. Then I pulled myself together and thought to myself, "Some people are sending their kids off to boot camp today, I have nothing to be sad about."

It worked for a little while, but I've missed him and my younger son every day since. It's been 13 years.

Read Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet," where he talks about children. It's pretty special.

Richard said...

Hey KT,

He will thrive and you WILL survive.

Having sent off two kids 25+ years ago and now two grandchildren, we are living examples of the latter. And they are all doing fine as well.

Ira said...

Have you seen "Boyhood" yet? Aside from being a beautiful film, I think it will be especially resonant for you right now.

Personally, I can't remember the last time a movie stayed with me like that one has.

John said...

I guess your son was right about the future of photography. Panasonic just announced that they stuffed a 1' sensor into an smartphone.

Pretty amazing.