My Journey from Dorms to Death and the Gift of Time

My Journey from Dorms to Death and the Gift of Time | Houston Moms Blog

It happened seven days ago. In complete conflict with my maternal instincts, I packed up my youngest son, drove him a hundred miles or so from home to a strange city, and then left him to fend for himself in a strange place amongst thousands of strange people.

These Are My Confessions

Okay, so it was college. But it is still a strange place with lots of strange people. I have done this before; he is the second of my children to leave home for college. I thought it would be easier the second time around, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t ready. Opening the front door to my home, the difference was immediately apparent. The air felt different. Every room looked different. The quiet in the house sounded different. My home was filled with the absence of him.

From the day he was born, I knew this day would come and yet that didn’t make it any easier. For weeks, I had busied myself with the particulars of this journey and fussed over inconsequential details. These were the distractions that kept me from choking on my sadness, anxiety and a fistful of other unpleasant emotions that my head kept telling me were perfectly irrational – while my heart SHOUTED a conflicting message.

My feelings were much more complicated the second time around. With my first son, my feelings were simply about him and how much I missed him. With my second son, my feelings were about how much I missed him. AND… about how I am now one child away from an empty nest. AND… about how an empty nest brings you one step closer to old age. AND how old age is the step before death. AND about how I need to begin making end of life decisions because my time is near. Yes, my son leaving for college means that I am shopping for under the bed storage – and thinking about where I would like my ashes sprinkled.  

Don’t Blink

Almost twenty-one years ago, I walked into a hospital wearing a dreadfully ugly white maternity shirt adorned with a tacky silver zipper. The hospital was full and we were temporarily turned away. We went to Denny’s to pass the time and I ate pancakes. I would live to regret that decision. After 27 hours of labor, my first son was born and I was pleased that he’d made his exit from my personal neighborhood in time for me to watch The Maury Show in peace. I’d put in a request for meatloaf from the Black-Eyed Pea. During a commercial, I vividly remember the nurse haphazardly holding my newborn son under the water faucet and wondering if she’d skipped the class on new baby washing – and then watching him fall peacefully asleep in her arms as she softly brushed his head full of straight black hair. I remember these details like they happened yesterday. Then I blinked. And woke up in the body of rotund middle aged woman with high cholesterol. 

My youngest child is twelve years old now. In six years, I will be buying under the bed storage for her too. As the kids grow up and move on to new phases of life, so too does their mother. At 47, I have now passed an age that my younger self believed to be comparable to a fossil and on the verge of death. According to twenty-something me, I am on borrowed time. My children leaving home, the gray hairs sprouting exponentially from various parts of my body, and the joints that require a 90-second warm up period prior to walking each morning are constant reminders that time passes quickly. Every day, I confront the fact that life is short and I have not come close to scratching off things from my relatively low risk bucket list. I know that I am going to blink my eyes and another 21 years will have passed. I am not ready for that either.

Recognizing the Gift of Time

On dorm move-in day, I left a gift for my son to find after my departure. I gave him a timepiece, a 2018 pocket watch {aka an Apple watch} along with this message ::

One of the worst feelings is looking back over your life and realizing how much time you wasted on stuff that really didn’t matter. So, treat your time like gold. Don’t waste it. Use it wisely. Love on the people that love on you. Make big memories. Enjoy every minute of this experience, because there are no do-overs. Remember this… what you do now is preparing you for your future. Make. Every. Moment. Count.

A few days later, I read the message that I’d sent him and it was as though the words had been written by someone else – and gifted to me. In the end, one of the things I want most is to be able to look back at my life with no regrets about things not done. I don’t want to wish I had… I want to be able to remember all the things I did. I might be a little late to the party, but there is still plenty of time for me to get busy and Make. Every. Moment. Count.


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Joi was born and raised in San Antonio. After a brief pit stop at the University of Texas in Austin, Joi moved to Houston in 1994 and began checking boxes off her never ending to do list. During this time and in no particular order, Joi taught a little bit of everything between first and eighth grades, got married and then divorced, completed grad school, birthed a few babies – Ferris {November 1997}, Warren {December 1999} and Laylah {March 2006}, moved an old lady into her home – Granny {January 1925} started working in Human Resources, served an excessive amount of time (on boards, in booster clubs, team momming) as a crazy sports momma, and learned a lot of life lessons. Joi is known for her unabashed honesty, always present sense of humor and her #TeamTooMuch style of doing everything. On most days, you can find her caught up in her love/hate relationship with politics, feeding her Facebook addiction, or counting the number of days until her last child graduates from high school.


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