Blog Family Stories

Rainy Days and Teens

So here I am.  I’m at our lake house and its soggy.  I’ve said yes to my  kid that as part of his graduation present he can bring friends up here. Girls and boys.  Somehow we set a limit and somehow, in the effort not to hurt certain people’s feelings, he exceeded that limit without checking with me.

As the rain pours down and the TV blares with the cheesy R rated movie they’ve rented, the septic system groans with overuse and I try desperately not  to pick up each tortilla chip as it drops on the carpet– trying to pretend I’m rolling with this, I will the time to speed ahead.  They are all going out for pizza in the nearest town soon.  I can’t wait. 

I have kept my mouth silent as they used the new fluffy expensive bath towels for beach towels in the absence of me being there to direct them.  The damage is done– they are already in the dirty sand– what good will looking like a harpie do now?  

And as I sit now, with time to relfect, to write a little and catch up on the emails I seem never to be able to wrestle on top of, I reflect that its awfully quiet.  I like this.

Yes, no Mom craves to be in a house on a rainy night with a half-classroom of teenagers.  They certianly don’t want me here either.  But now, all this quiet– quiet enough to hear the rain on the roof –this is what it will feel like sometimes when he is gone.  Next year when my son heads off to college, althoug there are still three girls at home, I will feel the absence.  It will be its own kind of silence.

Why is there no middle ground?  This age seems like its all or nothing.  All of them coming at you full-throttle or gone…. out for the night as you hope to catch snatches of meaningful conversation at a dinner table somewhere.

Eighteen years of raising him and yes, it seems to have gone fast, but it also feels like 18 years.  I can remember all the iterations like a photo collage in my mind;s eye.  I went to wake him the other morning and I just began sobbing— i just saw it all telescoped together like a deck of cards being shuffled  by a dealer.

My son was instantly awake, alert, worried at my sobbing.  I should have been using this tactic for years now to get him up. “Nothing is wrong,” I sniffed.  ‘I’m just thinking I only have about six weeks left to do this,” I said, ruffling his hair.

“I’ll always come home,” he said to me in a kind, little boy voice.  “And I love you,” he added, looking right in my eyes and holding my gaze.

I’ll carry that moment with my son in my heart for a long time; through four years of college and as he moves on to take his first job, find a girl, settle down and have kids of his own.  I don’t get the chance to look inside my son’s heart as often as I like.  But I saw it that morning, shining bright and clean and constant– love — the best gift I could have given him. Even if I can’t wait for him and his friends to leave the house on a rainy day.


  1. Shara

    June 14, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Ugh… I will be there a year from now. We are in the midst of filling out college apps and asking for letters of recommendation. I am excited for my girl, but I am sad for me.

  2. Tracey Barth

    June 14, 2009 at 6:44 pm


    My bookgroup is going to read your new book this month. We are so looking forward to it. I heard you speak at the Memorial Day Celebration in NY. Was wondering if you could meet my book group at the same NY location sometime in July. Could you email me?

  3. Amy Ruff

    June 16, 2009 at 12:18 am

    Hi Lee…
    Attended the BIANYS annual conference and so connected with what you spoke of. My dad survived a TBI and was a Korean War vet. He worked at Ft. Drum and I grew up a middle child of seven here in Watertown, NY. I have my MS in Community Counseling and it is my desire to provide support both for caregivers and survivors of TBI. You spoke of complicated grief of which I am all too familiar with from both sides of the fence. My dad has since passed on and my desire lives on to run groups and provide Community Integration Counseling under the DOH in this often times ‘removed ‘ area of NY. I have been making contacts with Ft. Drum as they have just recently opened a TBI clinic. I gave DOH my purchased book for you to sign and return to me. I missed Bob speak at a prior conference and will most definitely purchase In An Instant. Maybe he can sign that one for me. I would cherish these signed books in my personal collection…you are an inspiration to me personally and professionally and I am glad I could make the conference this year, but sorry I did not meet with you as I was so busy networking to push services up this way. Stay strong and take care of yourself in ways only you know best….Amy Ruff, MS, NCC

  4. Laura

    June 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    What a beautiful reminder to enjoy our kids while they are with us and a reminder that I shouldn’t feel bad when I LOVE the quiet of the house when they are gone! You go, girl, for giving your son his graduation wish at the Bay. See you in August.

  5. Lee Woodruff

    June 21, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    hey there– feel free to contact me on email and bob would be more than happy to sign your book– thank you for all you do!!!!!!! stay strong!

  6. Molly

    June 25, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Two weeks after my daughter left for college, I was settling into my new routine of life with one fewer child in the house. One afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter saying that due to bad hurricane warnings, the school was having an emergency evacuation. She caught a ride home with someone and would be on our doorstep within an hour.
    I can’t begin to explain the joy that I felt by that unexpected gift of her presence at home again. it was impossible not to smile; to conceal my excitement by telling my neighbors that she was on her way back, and then it struck me: this is what pure love feels like!

  7. Nina

    June 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    When we dropped off our daughter last August (on my birthday no less) at University of Illinois, I cried for 45 minutes straight. Then the strangest feeling came over me. I felt as if I had ‘finished’ something—it was odd but at the same time, very comforting. Certainly, my parenting duties with her are far from over but at that particular moment, I felt I had accomplished ‘something’ and was able to breath a sigh of relief.

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