Parents Weekend with the Dalai Lama

Finally, the long awaited ‘parents weekend’! It really wasn’t about all the Cornell Parent activities, though there were many activities planned, for me it was just about needed time with Shane, in his world. The thought did occur to me that my parents and I might somehow be imposing on his newly found space, but I let it pass quickly, since this was about what I needed, right? Not so much about what he needed. What were his needs anyway? He seemed to be completely need-less since arriving at Cornell. Fascinating.

But as we headed into the beautiful mountains of New York, noticing the bright colors of fall leaves and the gorgeous surroundings, an ache of not wanting to get there too quickly radiated over me. It was an odd feeling. As much as I was dying to see him and have his arms wrapped around me, I knew that once we arrived, the rest of the weekend would be a whirlwind. And then over…

So my goal was to simply stay present, in each moment. First on my list was to be present on the drive and time alone with my parents. That was easy!

But next: Shane. We changed our dinner reservation 3 times, due to traffic, yet only to find that this was the mere beginning of ‘rushed’ meals. Apparently eating at Cornell, is not an activity, but a quick rest stop on the way to fun. And then, about an hour before arriving, came in a text: can’t wait to see you! What more could I ask for than that?

Greeted with a huge warm hug from Shane, the kind that never feels right leaving, we skipped our way to the Sushi reservation. When we got to the door and realized that the place was empty due to it being a great take out place, we had a good chuckle at the lonely ‘RESERVED’ sign on our table. As we finished barely our last bites, Shane reported we really needed to get going if we were going to make it to the A capella concert.

And so it began…a weekend filled with laughs, stories, more laughs, more rushed meals and an unbelievable sense of accomplishment in watching him move around campus like he was the mayor. Or was it the guy from Cheers, where everybody knows his name…and they are oh so glad he came…? All I knew was that in fact everywhere we went, someone knew him and was giving him a shout out. It was quite amazing. He certainly did not waste any time immersing himself into Cornell.

Each moment of laughter, was followed by a little sorrow. Each moment of laughter, surrounded by the sweet memory of why he is so missed in my world back in Pennington. I have yet to meet a man who comprehends the meaning of being ‘present’ like he does; like it is not an option, but a mandatory way of living. Am I biased? For sure! But even so, I have been surrounded by many great men in my time, many who have offered my life laughter and love, but none, that could consistently, day after day, year after year, make others around him feel as if they are the only being that mattered in that moment.

Every moment he must unknowingly break another girls heart, I thought. Mine surely aches each time I leave his side.

We only made it to one of the Cornell Parents’ activities, but did all the things we wanted to. Listening to groups singing at random street corners, fire stations, in buildings and then letting the music in our hearts guide our time there. We were also lead on some great walking tours filled with breathtaking colors and sights. It was like an overload of our senses as we continued to take it all in, trying to record each moment on video and camera.

Saturday night Shane scurried off to a fraternity party that he frequently gets invited to. Not because he wants to be in one, as he has taken a stand to not conform to being like others, but because of the group of friends that trail along with him. Apparently the friends that follow him there, have come to count on him as their safety net as he has started a tradition of getting almost 30 students home safely at the end of the evening…on foot! One sober boy. 30 others lost without his guidance. I can still hear my friends from way back when, whispering how he won’t stay sober once he hits college. If they could see him now. Clearly he had become a Dalai Lama of sorts. Taking care of others as he began doing when just 8 years old. Putting the needs of others before his. The Dalai Lama? Yes, that is what I said! ‘He who was thought of as a reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders.’ Possibly! ‘Chosen to enlighten others.’ Definitely! ‘Exerting much influence.’ Certainly!

Sunday morning we awoke once again with a bounce in our steps, knowing we still had one more meal with Shane. We squeezed in our last morning workout in a hotel run by a staff that seemed a bit surreal as well and I wondered if we were we in a Shane fog? Or was everything here just perfect? Hard to tell.

Proud of myself for finally having figured out the Cornell campus, I offered to drive back to the dorm to pick up Shane. One more rushed meal to go! As I carefully maneuvered the car into the parking lot, I saw a woman who looked like she might be pulling out. My heart sank as I watched a young girl head over to her car. I knew what was about to happen right before my eyes: a goodbye. I tried to look away, feeling the heaviness of the tears right behind my eyes, but could not. Maybe if I could watch someone else do it without sobbing, I would then be able to as well. No such luck. Neither of them were crying. Not mom. Not daughter. But I cried for both of them.

We had our last meal, shared all the fun we had being submerged in his new life, had some great belly laughs about the hills and then Shane showed me his organized homework app on his phone, reporting all the work he still had to do. That was the cue: Hurry up on that last bite!

I let my parents get their hugs out of the way and then put myself in there, prepared for whatever would come next. I allowed myself to feel sad. I allowed myself to cry. I allowed myself to make mental notes of his hug that seemed to make my whole world better. Oh to feel love like that. And oh…to feel so grateful as a mom to have raised such great boys. One, who was temporarily in his own world…

It’s just until thanksgiving, Shane said as I wept in his tight squeeze, it will go fast. Just a few weeks away…

And at that, I gathered myself and released that poor boy from my clutching arms. How did I raise a boy that never pulls away from a hug first? We then got into the car and I took one last deep breath. Then…again promised myself to be present…with my parents on the way home.

Life, with the good and the bad, is meant to be lived. No wasted days will be made up at the end. No exceptions.

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