My son is in college, three hours away. He is not at my house, not in my car. He is not in my town. He is away. At college.
But I see him ... everywhere.
I saw him again today. This time he was riding on his dad’s shoulders and cock-a-doodle-dooing in the bread aisle at Lund’s. What a good rooster noise he made. He is not too heavy to ride on your shoulders, Dad.
Sometimes I see him with long hair hanging over his face, and I guess he is about 13 or 14 years old. His hair is beautiful. Yes, it covers his eyes, but he needs to keep it long right now. It gives him a screen to hide behind when he wants to. Soon, he will cut it, but not just yet.
Let him make choices and try them out while he is safe at home with you. Soon, he will be making all of his own choices, and you won’t know what they are.
I see him again, and he is about 9; his baggy shorts hang over his skinny legs. He walks with his mother into the department store. She is rushing and she reaches down for his hand. He takes hers without thinking, and they cross the parking lot. Don’t hurry, Mom. Hold his hand and enjoy the walk. Soon, he will refuse. He will be too embarrassed to be near you. See him there beside you now. Feel his hand in yours.
I see him riding in his stroller, as his mom teaches him the ABCs. Remember how sweet the alphabet sounds, Mama. Enjoy each syllable. Hear how he speaks. Soon you will forget that toddler voice.
Today he waited while his mom put a quarter in the gumball machine at the mall. He was so excited to get the prize in his tiny hand. Watch his face, Mom. See how happy he is. Look closely and let him enjoy it. Soon you won’t be able to see his smile.
I see him in his car seat in the back of the SUV stopped beside me at the stoplight. He is napping. Look at his closed eyelids. Put your phone down and listen to his gentle snores. Soon he will be sleeping far away.
I saw him walking to school with his father, and he was talking a mile a minute. Listen to him, Daddy. Listen while he talks. Soon he will go away. Soon you will have to guess at what his thoughts are.
Soon you will be amazed at how you see him — and how you didn’t.
Toni Halleen, of St. Louis Park, is a writer, mom, lawyer and teacher.