I sent my No. 2 son, Andy, off to college earlier this week (Winona State University). His departure date snuck up on me. It feels like there’s lots of summer left, but this event puts a hint of fall in the air.
I wasn’t nearly as emotional as I was last year, when his older brother, Joe, went off to the University of Dallas for his freshman year. Still, I got choked up as I shook hands with Andy and said farewell.
I was able to hold my composure in his presence (I figured it would be awkward for him to see my tears), but I broke down when I went upstairs to see my wife, Julie, and daughter, Claire, afterward. Other parents of college students can relate, I’m sure.
I think you get reflective at times like this, and I have been recalling the many great times Andy and I have spent together in the woods and on the water. The photo above depicts our most successful bass outing ever. It took place in July of 2008 on Cedar Lake on the Minneapolis chain and marks the only time both of us caught fish weighing more than 5 pounds on the same trip.
After missing out on some great action the week before, Andy was eager to join me on a Sunday morning. We had a slow start, then the bass started biting. I caught a fish weighing 5 pounds, 4 ounces. Then, Andy caught three 18-inchers on consectutive casts on a different spot. Minutes later, he landed a 5-pound, 1-ounce lunker that was his biggest ever.
It was a great thrill and one of many we have shared over the last 10 years. Andy has shot four wild turkeys, and I have been with him for every one. We also have had great walleye trips to both Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake. A few years ago, I took the family to Upper Red right after the state DNR moved the protected slot from 17 inches to 20. On the last morning of our trip, we needed six fish to reach our family limit. Andy and I went out early and caught the six within about an hour. All six were between 17 and 20 inches, which made for some great fish fries after we got home.
Like so many parents, I ask, “Where did the years go?” Fortunately, I know just where they went. In other words, I have been able to spend lots of time with Andy, so, although I’m sad he’s leaving, I have great satisfaction about all of the memories I have with him.
I wish all dads could say the same thing. Sadly, too many choose to leave their wives and kids for greener pastures that they never seem able to find, at least in the long term. I pray God will give dads the desire and grace to spend quality time with their kids — and their wives, of course — so that they can have lots of great memories to look back on, like I do.
For those of you who will be sending kids off to college in the coming weeks, spend time with them while you still can, share your love, wisdom and encouragement with them, and don’t be afraid to say a heartfelt — even tearful — goodbye as they prepare to leave the nest.
And remember, they’ll be back home again soon!