Parent Exiting a Helicopter

by Pam Dillon

At a dorm room on a distant campus, I left my youngest 10 days, six hours, 22 minutes and 32 seconds ago. After helping him unpack the 43 odd T-shirts, buying him a fan at Canadian Tire and treating him to a horrifically vein-clogging drive-through meal (…oh, the smell of those onion rings?) it was all over but the final hug.

* whimper *


Amazingly, it is possible to crawl to the car with a stake through your heart. (Good thing the dog – as usual, in the driver’s seat – was happy to see me.)

As you probably know by now, parenting can be hazardous.  But this child-leaving deal? Oy.

What a turbulent ride … landing at joy/sorrow, relief/anxiety, pride/misery, hope/loss and on and on all at once.

Truth? It caused me to do the strangest things (after the sobbing and semi-howling on the way home).

I cleaned.

I cleared out the rec-room-sized hockey dumpster in the basement, washed stuff, vacuumed and dusted until a welcoming rec room materialized. He would like that, right?

The corner bedroom where I, so many times, rocked a fair haired baby? It was empty. And we dared to go inside. The eldest and the dog and I flopped on the bed to soak up the all-of-him still with us.

(The eldest slept in his bed that night; he got there first, which was fine since nobody really expects a mother in withdrawal to sleep.)

Then I washed all his bedding, wiped surfaces, swiped away cobwebs and dusted never-before-dusted shelves of trophies in a frenzy that had me half-believing maybe the family tidiness genes were finally kicking into gear.

Yes, it was shrineish, but hey.



Less than 24 hours after drop off, I texted the youngest and he texted me back! It was a marvel, not to mention an hour earlier in the day than he would ever emerge from that bedroom. Could this herald a new era of intergenerational communication? The blades of my helicopter-mother heart whirled faster, even with the stake in it.

“Gotta love technology,” I told people.

Next day? Even better. There were texts and a phone call.

* jazz hands *

Only problem? The cleaning drive was slowing down.  One more shelf to dus … ooooh … Instagram.  

When the kid didn’t answer the Wednesday text and after there was no call from the police about carnage and no call from the Diefenbunker that Martians had abducted him, well, yes.

(Somewhat tearfully) I called him The Lout.

Next day? Again, not a word. I called him The Ingrate (and folded a couple of T-shirts he might be missing). 

The day after that? Full-speed “chopper” mode when the kid had the nerve to text his father. (Really? Free bodyrent for nine months, a birth almost in a hospital hallway – “Don’t push until the delivery room” – plus 18 years of motherly hovering devotion and this happens?)

* face palm *

The stake was out and … yet … all the while, stuff of daily life was ever so gradually filling the hole in ye old whirlybird. So it was that on Sunday morning at the water’s edge as I threw a stick for our wet dirty dog, the phone rang.

“Hello?” I heard his voice and my heart filled up and the spinning stopped.












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