Since You’ve Been Gone


I mean, you’re not that far from us. You’re in Oregon. Our states touch. We’re one plane ride away.

(If we fly direct to Portland then drive to Eugene. Otherwise it’s two plane rides with a connection in San Francisco. Sometimes one of the planes has a propeller.)

So what I’m saying is, you’re not gone-gone. But compared to the here-here you used to be…

Our house is different.

We’re watching Modern Family and the episode ends. Dad’s seen it. I’ve seen it. Karly has seen it. I open my mouth to say, “Don’t delete this. Save it for—” Then I remember. We can’t save all the shows. Not forever. And anyway, you’ve mostly stopped watching TV with us already. Still. A lump in my throat. I shut my mouth.

Before heading upstairs to bed, Dad realizes he doesn’t need to leave the garage door unlocked and the kitchen light on. For a year you’ve been coming home after we are asleep. From work. From being with friends. Your girlfriend. We’d stopped waiting up, but habits are sticky.

I want to leave the light on, the door unlocked. My gut tells me to. But you won’t be home. Not tonight. Not this month or the next.

A week after flying home without you, I get in the car for the first time to go grocery shopping. As it turns out, we don’t need groceries as often since you’ve been gone. On the passenger seat sits your work shirt and hat from Ameci’s Pizza. I almost cry in the Vons parking lot. But I don’t. When I get home, I almost put the hat and shirt in the hamper. Then I remember you’d just washed them for that last work shift. Worn once, the shirt still smells fresh. It smells like you. I hang it in the closet.

We FaceTime and I marvel at how good you look. How much the same. How different. I marvel that my parents (that everyone’s parents) used to let their kids go to college before texting.


They must have missed us, right?

I mean, I miss you.

Which is not to say I sit around weeping. Much.

I cried when we first left you at your dorm, but you know that. You saw my swollen eyes the next morning. I didn’t realize we’d be eating breakfast together or that my face would be a train wreck.

I cried when I saw these posts your sister shared on Snapchat and Instagram while we were in Oregon with you, without her.



(Did she have to use the word childhood?)

I cried when I got on the propeller plane from Portland to San Francisco. A little girl sat beside me. It was her first solo flight to visit her father. She had an iPad and she looked very small. On any other day I would’ve chatted, but I just smiled, then turned toward the window.

I cried when we came home from the airport and I went straight to your bedroom. Why did I do that? Your toiletries still in the bathroom. Your pillows and comforter. There. We couldn’t take these things on the plane and your dorm bed is a different size, anyway.

Now I’m glad. I like that we had to buy new things in Eugene. Despite the cost, it means we get to keep your old things here. While you’re gone.

This might be the last post I write about what it’s been like. It might not. I’d planned to write other posts since you’ve been gone. One on social media. One with writing tips. Instead, I finally completed that manuscript revision I’ve been working on and I sent it to my publishers. As it turns out, editing 12 hours a day distracts me from missing you. A little. Not all the way. But better than nothing.

In the moments when I’m not distracted, like right now, I need you to know that as here-here as you used to be, you will be there-there in no time. You’ll find your people. Friends who value you. Who recognize how special it is to have someone whose whole heart is on his sleeve; who’s always up for “you wanna hang out?” Who never gives up. Who bounces back. Who keeps trying.

That’s the boy I miss.

But I’m so proud of the man you are now.


See you soon, baby.


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16 thoughts on “Since You’ve Been Gone

  1. My heart. Your heart! This is a beautiful post. Letting go and hanging on at the same time – again, my heart. I don’t have the words to express how moving this is. Hugs to you, friend.

  2. Of course I knew this post would make me cry. (And of course I’m always right!) You’ll get through this mama. As I always say, “I’m more happy for him than I am sad for me.” (Mostly.) And I know you are too.

    And that picture – I’ve seen it before, but I have to tell you, it’s a stab in the heart. It says everything.


  3. Diane

    He will be here here before you know it. He’s doing great, you raised him well..

  4. Many big squishy hugs for you, friend. What a gift for Jack that he has such a heart to come home to.

  5. Jen

    Big hugs, my friend. ❤️

  6. Love to you, sweet mama. xo

  7. Such a soft landing place he has in your home and your heart. Hugs, Julie.

  8. Jill

    It’s such an interesting array of emotions, isn’t it? I was surprisingly fine leaving him in August. He was ready. Seemed more than ready, actually. Then I saw him for parent’s weekend a month later in September, and got a bit teary leaving, but again, fine. He was good. He was happy. He found his people. Then, he came home, on an unplanned long weekend for his fall break. Local friends visited. He/We got to spend time with his girlfriend. It was like it was before he left. Now, I find, after re-visiting life the way it was, I miss him more than ever.

  9. Michelle Hillstrand

    I just…:can’t even. Love you and your beautiful writing.

  10. Oh FRIEND. Now what am I supposed to do with all of these feelings?! (And yes, children should be barred from using the word “childhood.”) Hugs to your heart.

  11. Kelly

    The raw emotions of a mom … so beautiful and touching. ❤️

  12. Well. This hit me square in the heart parts. I will admit I read this last night and then I had to read my boys “Love You Forever” last night because GAH! Why do they have to grow up and turn into men? WHY? Hugs to you. He will be here here soon.

  13. Oh my goodness, so so so sweet. Okay fine, I won’t wish the time away!

  14. *tears* Poor Julie. Poor future me who is going to have to go through this.

  15. Maureen Vasile

    Of course I cried! I can’t believe how similar our hearts are regarding our children… my case young men, ok they are actually men now. I’m still the Mom! I love reading all you write because it’s obviously right from the heart. I’ve gone to work many times with swollen eyes from those heartbreaking airport good byes.
    Hugs to you Julie!

  16. Your duckling has a good momma 🙂

    Just thinking about my kids heading off to college makes it very dusty in my office.

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