*sigh*

For the first time since I became a mom, both of my sons will be living away from El Paso at the same time.  Ryan, who is in the Army, will be deploying to Iraq this month for the third time.  And my youngest son, Sam, left to Austin to begin school this morning. 

I'm not sure I can handle this.

You see, I've been a mom for 26 years.  I had Ryan when I was 18 and Sam about 7 years later.  I don't really remember a time when I wasn't a mom, and even though I've gone through two of Ryan's deployments, we've been super lucky to have him stationed at Fort Bliss, so he always comes back home when he comes back from Iraq.  But now, Sammy's getting ready to test his wings.  And I know, it's not like he won't be an hour and a half away by plane, but it just seems like yesterday when I opened the bathroom door and saw his naked little six year old butt staring back at me while he waited for the water to heat up so he could take a shower.  And wasn't it just a couple of days ago that I was dropping off Ryan at daycare and cringing when he kept telling me not to forget to pick him up?  (For the record, I NEVER forgot to pick him up, but that didn't stop the daycare ladies from raising an eyebrow at me every SINGLE morning for months!)

So What's Love Got To Do With An Empty Nest?

Well, for one, it's pretty damned empty.  I guess I never really thought about the day that the only physical manifestation of my children in the entire city would be the pictures they brought home from school that still hang on my refrigerator.  Yes, I'm THAT mom!  I have drawings from Ryan's kindergarten class and Sammy's handprints with a Mother's Day poem still displayed on my fridge!  I really didn't prepare myself for this day, and now my heart is breaking.

Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be prouder of my sons.  Ryan is protecting our country, something he tells me he would rather do over there than over here.  Sam is getting ready to find out that he can handle whatever life throws at him.  But gollygeedamn, I just wish I could get back the moment when Ryan taunted Sam to the point where he came after him with a plastic kiddie golf club and chased his terrified older brother around the house!  Or the time we laughed our heads off when a distracted Ryan, tired of his brother's incessant questions, yelled at Sammy, "I don't know - BACON?!" when Sammy asked him which superhero Ryan would most like to be! 

I know that part of growing up is going out on your own.  I did it.  My parents did it before me, and their's before them.  But that doesn't make this any easier.  So, to my sons as they continue on their life's journey, be safe, pray like mad for God's grace and protection, and don't forget your old mom, still at home, always loving you, missing you terribly, but so very, very proud of you both!