Blake was fast asleep when I arrived at his apartment. A roommate answered the door and went to wake him. Blake, now awake, led me to his bedroom where a quick glance revealed that the young man he shared a room with was also fast asleep. Almost two in the afternoon. Seemed about right for college students…
What took me by surprise (though it probably shouldn’t have) was that Blake hadn’t packed up his room at all, except for his clothes, which were all in his duffel bag. I’d asked him to pack up everything he could before I’d arrived and he’d done very little. I was frustrated, but kept that to myself. I recognized that getting upset would most likely only delay completing the task at hand. Instead, I suggested we get to work. Blake suggested he take a shower. Sigh.
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll go make some work phone calls in the car. Come get me when you’re ready to pack.”
Twenty minutes later, Blake was knocking on the car window. He didn’t seem to know where to start. I’m not sure if it was depression, being nineteen, or just plain old lack of experience that paralyzed him. Whatever it was, I began directing.
We folded bedding; we packed kitchen supplies; we sorted through his remaining food. Hygiene items had to be sorted – those worthy of the journey home and those to be relegated to the trash. I directed Blake to suitcases, to giant trash bags I’d brought with me, and to grocery bags. At some point his roommate had gotten out of bed and we had the room to ourselves. I directed swiftly staying focused on the task.
There was a quarter dollar coin on the carpet. Blake walked carelessly back and forth over it.
“Who does this belong to?” I asked.
“It’s been there a long time,” Blake answered, “ probably most of the semester.”
We loaded all his belongings into the car, two floors below. Up and down the stairs, over and over again. Finally, we’d finished and it was time to say goodbye.
“Hey, Josh,” Blake called to his roommate, who was now at the dining table, “Do you know whose quarter is on our floor?”
“Oh yeah. That’s mine. I dropped it a while back.”
Blake handed the quarter to him and then they shook hands.
“I wish you all the best, man,” Blake said as they parted.
“Yeah, you too.”
We climbed into the car.
“Ready to go?” I asked. Blake nodded. As we pulled out of the apartment complex, I saw Blake wipe a tear from his face. Then another. And another. They were flowing freely now.
“You gonna miss it here?”
“It just feels like another failure – another failed opportunity in my life,” he said.
“Hey,” I said, “there were successes here, too. A lot of them. You’re allowed to feel what you feel and I won’t take away from that. You certainly have more growing and learning to do. At the same time, please remember that there were some things you dealt with very well.”
“Thanks, Mom.” My cue to be quiet. And we drove out of the complex I silence. Onward toward the future.