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I’ve got a secret

I bet Steve’s looking everywhere for this. Can you keep my secret?

 

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Where Did You Go, Little One?

Where Did You Go, Little One?

goodbyes
Like many dads and moms, when my children, Aridae and Wills, were each wee tots, I’d tuck them into bed. Just before I’d sing or hum The Beatles’ lullaby to end all lullabies, Good Night, I would playfully throw the sheet over their heads and ask the question, where did you go, little one, then fuel their nightly giggles at this routine with tickles. It was bonding. It was a now moment, every night, shared with the stars and the crickets. It was a loving life ritual that just was.

And now, so many years later, another ritual is upon me.

In exactly six weeks, I will take my son, my six-foot-four baby boy, off to college. As this ritual moment grows closer, I find myself pondering the night again with the crickets and stars, humming Good Night to myself now, anticipating this rite of passage for him, his mother, and me, the voice inside my heart whispering a familiar question: where did you go, little one?

Wendy and I are blessed with two great children. We dropped our daughter Aridae, our oldest, off at college four years ago and I can honestly say that it was the hardest day of my life. Ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you I don’t even do well with good-bye scenes in movies – heck, I cry every time Steve Martin says good-bye to John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

I remember vividly pulling up curbside at the Tucson Airport that evening. Wendy was staying back an extra day to help Ari finish the college settling in process, and Wills and I were flying back to LA. The car stopped. I climbed out into the 105 degree Arizona heat, but didn’t even notice it. From the back, I tugged out my suitcase that felt so heavy in that moment, Wills grabbing his own bag. My beautiful daughter got out of the car, and at that moment, I could hear, see, sense nothing else around me except her. Nearly tripping over my bag, I grabbed Aridae, pulled her close and likely whispered something father-wise in her ear, what, I can’t recall. I’m sure I told her how much I loved her, but she already knew that. I told her to work hard, but she knew that was the plan. I told her I would always be here for her, but I’m sure she already knew that too.

In those final seconds where broken hugs expire and good-byes are born, we basked in the glow of our smiles – those unspoken words of silent understanding summing up the years now behind us, flowing freely between us. Then I felt my emotional damn breaking. Yes part of it was her good-bye to me and mine to her, but mainly it was the realization that this was, as the cliché goes, the first day of the next chapter of the rest of my life. I fumbled for my suitcase handle and bee-lined it into the terminal with my son.  Wills looked over at me. I was crying like a baby. And while he may not have been able to grasp the emotional magnitude of it all for me, he was in that moment, my rock.

Where did you go, little one?

Aridae, like my son soon will, went to where life slides into a new realm and where Dad’s inevitably ponder their own existence under a full moon, with stars and crickets.

It took many a full moon for me to get a grip on Aridae’s absence in our home. I’d peek into her empty room on many an occasion just to say a quiet hello where noise and laughter once ruled.  But still, I knew she had gone to where she was meant to – into adulthood and her own adventure.

Now it’s Wills’ turn. It’s been a busy couple of months for him- and all of us- and I couldn’t be more proud. He finished his second season on the Varsity golf team (golf was very bonding for us), earned his Eagle Scout award (I’m proud to say I was in scouting with him for many years, since my Cub Leader days) and he graduated high school with honors (I had nothing to do with that). Now it’s July and he’s basking in the leisure his hard work has earned him – hanging with his buds, chillin’ on his own terms – living the last summer of his childhood.

Where did you go, little one?

I am certain of very few things in my life, but one of them is that I have been a pretty good dad (you’ll have to confirm this with my children, of course). Oh sure, I have the doubts every parent has had- the things not said, the moments missed, but overall, I feel pretty good about my place in the standings. And now the season of being a dad to children is ebbing away. In six weeks I will say good-bye to my son. No, thankfully he’s not going off to war and God willing we will have many more beautiful times together. As I ponder the moment of his last childhood hug from me, I find solace in the fact that I have no recollection of the moment I hugged my parents good-bye at age eighteen and so I know in my heart the melancholy of this rite-of-passage is more mine than his.

And so, in that very same Tucson heat, he will smile at me, he will tell me that he will work hard and be safe. His six foot-four-inch frame will engulf me.  I won’t want to let go, but will, knowing in my heart he‘ll move on and become the exemplary man I’ve always known he can be. And in that moment he will tell me that he loves me – will again be my rock – because he’ll know, intuit, sense, feel, what is going through my mind…

 

Where did you go, little one?

 

Craig W. Van Sickle

Author, producer and writer. Craig has become a trailblazer in Trans-media.

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