If You Love Somebody

Set them free.

I’m coming up to a milestone in my life, as my son is about to leave home to start at university. He’s been such a good friend to me over the last nineteen years, I’ve kind of built my world around him, so it’s going to be tough to see him go.

It brings to mind a scene from my favourite movie It’s Complicated, where recently divorced Meryl Streep’s daughter leaves her beautiful Californian home for uni. There’s the wind in the trees outside the house, she’s giving her mum her very last hug, then getting into her car, and she says: “…really doing this!” The sense of her daughter’s excitement and nervous energy is beautifully counterpointed by her mother’s proud and silent grief.

We have to let go.

As children, we lose our best friends. Relationships fail. We’re migrants in a global economy. We’re bereaved. Learning how to lose someone gracefully is a huge life skill, it comes with bitter and enduring pain – sometimes we can manage it, sometimes we can’t.

I focus on the positives.

My son has been my soccer buddy, we’ve been going to our club’s every game for a decade. He’s been my official Disabled Helper since he was nine years old. As he’s moving away, my wife will bravely take up that role – I’ve bought a brand new picnic basket so we can pack sandwiches, squash and tea for the long wait in the car park before the match. That’s different, that’s new. I’ll be so sad not to see my boy next to me, but life goes on, and the football will be fantastic.

I’ll try not to text him too much.

Maybe once a week, if I can be disciplined. I’m guessing that a 19 year-old really doesn’t want to have his Dad messaging him – but I want to let him know I’m there, if he needs someone.

Of course, it is genuinely a little bit more complicated these days, with the technology we have at our fingertips. When I was that age, we just had telephone boxes and the Royal Mail – keeping in touch with someone involved real effort. Now, with our smart phones, the connections are not so easily broken.

So it goes. The earth spins, quietly magnificent, exquisite and uncaring. Love falls through the cracks of time and becomes unspoken forever. Our memories sustain us, we preserve them intricately and with reverence. I remember how my son used to get me a cup of tea at the football kiosk, how he saved to buy stickers for his album of famous players. How I held his hand in my prosthetic one when I walked him into primary school.

Words could not describe how much I love him, and how deeply I’ll miss having him in the house.

But the game goes on, and now he’s got his own new set of fixtures.

It’s about resilience. We can be proud of what we have to let go. Glad.