Yesterday my son flew home to Seattle at the end of his annual summer visit. It’s never the easiest day for either of us, but by now we’re used to it. After all, this is the eighth year in a row. But there was something a little different about this trip. It might well be his last for a few years.
In 2005 I moved back to the UK from America. My wife and I had divorced, and for many reasons I chose to leave the US. I’d weighed things out very carefully before coming to a decision. After all, my son was there, just 10 when I left. But he could spend every summer here with me, we could talk every day – I’d bought him a cell phone and there was MSN for chatting, onscreen and even with a webcam.
We were lucky. As a writer I’d been able to work from home since he was born. We’d had the chance to spend time together, to form a real bond and become close. That made a huge difference. I believe that I could move away and that bond would remain strong.
I remember picking him up at Heathrow Airport in 2006, having to sign for him like a package. He’d flown on his own, looked after by cabin crew and escorted through the airport. I’d never, ever been happier to see someone. We took the train into London, then the underground, and finally another train north. He was tired – it’s a nine-and-a-half hour flight – but still wide-eyes and marvelling at how large and just how green England was.
The parting that year was tearful, on both sides, the journey back to my flat bleak and empty. Next year was better, even with the adventure of the 2007 floods that left us stranded overnight in Derby. He’d grown, as he has every year since.
In just over a week from now he’ll turn 18. He’ll spend his birthday at his university orientation. But he’s already a man, thoughtful, responsible, intelligent and creative. His loves – manga, anime, mathematics – aren’t mine, but that’s as it should be. We share other things. We talk three times a week, but that will change soon enough, I’m sure. The options for communication – email, Facebook, phone, Skype, Facetime – have grown exponentially. We can be in touch anytime. I can be there for him if he needs me.
He’s the very best part of me. I’m proud of who he’s become, although much of the credit for that goes to his mother. And now he’s about to begin this new life as a college student. He seems to be ready to take it in his stride. Me? I’m full of trepidation, although I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m as anxious as…a parent. I’m lucky. The bond is still strong between us. But he’ll be making new friends, and have new plans for his year. Already he’s talking about taking classes next summer. Things will be different now. I always knew they would, he’s growing up and growing away into his own life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But I’ll always love him and be proud of him.