His race has been called.
The swimmer approaches the blocks
Steps onto the platform, anticipating the start.
He is called to mark, fingers reach then curl around the edge of the platform
Get set….muscles fire, from toes to calves to hamstring, shoulders arms, anticipating, anticipating….
The buzzer sounds, simultaneously the machine that is the body springs forward, fingers, toes reaching reaching for aqua liquid
and once entering the channel propels forward, every muscle, ligament, tendon, breath pushing the skeleton toward the wall 50 meters ahead.
It is the start that initiates the motion.
Before this start, there is much anticipation.
There is much waiting…
in the tent, on the pool deck, waiting for the race to be called, for the heat to be called.
Before the waiting there is the warm up hours before the race.
Before the warm up there are the hours of practice
called when Morningstar still hovers
finishing as light breaks the sky
called again mid afternoon until dusk
and always repetitions
of stroke, of yards put in
building stamina and strength…
all of this
before the start.
My son’s last race was one month ago
one month before this fresh start.
and as I watched that last start,
forgetting to turn on the video camera,
waves of emotion overcome….
of sadness watching one last race
of pride for all he has accomplished in this sport
of all he has learned about discipline, perseverance, pushing self past limits to the end
to the last touch of the wall.
Now a fresh start
another highly anticipated moment.
This one preceded, with hours of preparation
not only with test scores and hours logged studying,
of honors and awards and diploma,
but also with the weeding out
the choosing, of what he will take and what he will leave behind.
The things left behind, the tokens, the trophies, the T-shirts that label his past years
litter the floor, the dresser in the now empty room.
and the things chosen to go with him
boxes, bags one by one filling the car–the books, the photos, the new college T-shirts
the new sheets and towels and containers and journals
that will now fill his college dorm
will drive away in the car with him and his dad
on the journey 1000 miles to Texas.
I asked him to humor me one last time, during that last hour of anticipation
for although he had his things organized and ready to go for weeks
his dad did not.
So as dad scrambled around that last hour
he took a selfie with the dog, and scratched the cat behind the ears just how he likes it
and sat on the steps with me to browse through the album I made for graduation,
the one hastily thrown together to cover 18 years
from the first hospital photo to the senior portrait only taken months ago.
There is a page with cowboy boots, hints of the land he will travel to now.
It was his Toy Story party when he was five.
I ask him, “Do you remember Toy Story 3, when you laughed at me bawling in my 3D glasses, crying, ‘Is this how it’s going to end!’ as Andy drives off to college!”
He nods and laughs along with me. I jump up, suddenly remembering something found the other day. I bring back to him two small plastic figurines, one of Woody, one of Buzz Light Year. As a joke I write Michael’s name on Woody’s boot. “Keep them in your car,” I kid, thinking they too will be left behind. I promised him last night I would let him go with not too many tears. I will let go. He is a grown man now.
He smiles and stuffs them in his bag.
We stand for one last hug. “Be the agent for change,” I tell him. “Your gift is helping others. Be the one that changes things for the better.”
One more squeeze and we walk out the door.
And the highly anticipated moment for the past weeks, months, happens.
No call to the platform, no call to set, no buzzer.
He waves goodbye, climbs into the overstuffed Civic with his dad,
backs out the driveway that once launched scooters and rollerblades
and drives away.