The Fork in the Road

A new year always ushers in new opportunities and second chances. For some of us, we will commit to live a healthier lifestyle, save some money, even spend more time with family. Others will start new jobs, relocate to new cities, welcome new children and even conquer an illness.  But nothing quite prepares a mother for the day her child leaves home to forge his own path in the world. It’s exciting and terrifying, like riding the roller coaster at Cedar Point. You’re filled with pride and apprehension as you watch your baby bird flap their wings and leave the nest. For me, the first week of January was filled with emotions as I watched my son go his own way.

My Fiesta Bowl celebration was short lived. No sooner had the trophy been handed over and post-game interviews completed, I was making a mental list of all the things that had to be done to get Darron to the “next step” in his life. I, like most parents, was hoping he would stay in school another year. But I’ve known since October 18, 2015, that my role in his life has changed. I am now an advisor. While my opinions and thoughts carry weight, he is free to make his own decisions even if they are somewhat impetuous. And the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I was 18 years old and severely hungover when I decided in January 1990 to join the U.S. Navy.  His decision was a greeting card full of irony. Karma wrapped in a bow.

I took the week off from work. There was no way in hell I could have juggled the ungrateful nature of television news and the emotional instability that comes with watching your child leave home for more than a weekend. The homicides, Powerball jackpots, bank robberies, corrupt politicians, cold newsrooms, smelly live trucks and cold fastfood would all be in their rightful place when I got back.  For once, my son would come first. For once, my family would be more important that standing on some street corner telling you how terrible the world is. There was work to be done at home and I was all in.

For days, I washed and sorted his laundry. I waded through at least six or seven plastic bins of t-shirts, underwear, shorts, skinny jeans, sweatshirts and shoes. I swear he is a male version of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines who had more shoes than DSW. Every type of sneaker, several pairs of dress shoes and more cleats than you could imagine were stowed away in bags and boxes. It’s an amazing collection of memories that chronicles three years of college football.  The sheer magnitude of the task of sorting and washing kept the tears away.  There was no time to get emotional because Wednesday was fast approaching. Port Columbus was calling.

Somehow he came back from the Fiesta Bowl without a wallet and a massive ear infection.  He needed a driver’s license to fly and a new/temporary debit card. I gathered all the necessary documents and told him he had to be at the BMV early Monday. He wouldn’t be the only one in line. It was the first weekday in 2016 that people could get a new license. To his credit, he got up and took care of that early. Then, we needed to see an ENT before he left. Fortunately, a good friend with Ohio Health got him an appointment at Doctor’s West Monday afternoon. Poor kid had built up too much fluid behind the eardrum. It had to be drained. I’m so happy Katie Logan read my frantic email. Thanks lady!

As I mothered my son, I wondered if he was even ready. A lost wallet, a bad ear, all required my attention. Jesus, would he be able to fly back to Phoenix alone? Could he navigate O’Hare or Hartsfield-Jackson without accidentally setting off an incident at a TSA checkpoint? Please, don’t lose that wallet I kept saying for two days. I was on the verge of nervous breakdown. But it was a labor of love. I couldn’t have spent my week any other way. Caring and loving my child has been the focus of my life for more than twenty-one years. I wasn’t always perfect. I made mistakes. But what parent doesn’t? As Monday turned to Tuesday, I began to silently take pride in the fact that I beat the average, defied the odds that often come with being a single parent. My baby boy was smart, respectful, drug-free and without a criminal record. And he hadn’t done anything too egregious that would warrant my killing him. Who has my bail money?

The night before Darron left to train of the NFL Combine, we had dinner at Cooper’s Hawk. It was a great night to dine there. The crowd was small so service was fast. We shared calamari and both had steaks. I looked over at him, secretly longing for the days when he wore his hair shorter. I knew I would miss seeing that face a few times a week. To me, he is still that tiny little baby hooked up to a heart monitor. I remember his tiny head full of hair, his little hands and feet. He was small and helpless. He needed me and I needed him.  Now, he stands six-foot-two, and weighs close to two hundred-forty pounds.  And I sat there wondering if we still would need each other. He intended to pay, but I wouldn’t let him.

The ride to Port Columbus on Wednesday was uneventful. The weather was perfect for driving, even better for flying. He let me pack his suitcase. Of course, it was heavier than allowed. But he was flying first class so they waived the fees. We quickly made our way to the Concourse B TSA checkpoint. I felt the tears coming, but held them back. I just flat out refused to melt into a blubbering idiot. I didn’t see my mother the day I left for the U.S. Navy. But I did speak to hear on the phone the night before I flew to Orlando. She cried like a baby. And in some way, I felt bad for leaving home. I didn’t want my son to feel that, so I sucked it up. I gave that goodbye four to six seconds of relentless effort. Good thing I couldn’t go to the gate because I’m sure I would’ve fallen apart as he walked down the jet way.

I waited for him to clear security. I watched as that white skull cap weaved in and out. I watched him gather his bags and belongings. He turned and waived. I waived in return. And just like that, he was gone.

I haven’t cried until now. I’m sitting at work on Sunday night, tears rolling down my face with the Golden Globes in the background. I don’t think it hit me until now how much I miss him. I worry, like all parents do when their babies go off into the big world. Will he make mistakes? Yes. Will he need me in the middle of the night? Probably. Does the distance between us change our love for each other? Nope. We are mother and son, an unbreakable bond exists between us. And while we are physically separated by a couple thousand miles, our love for each other will last forever.

 

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

46 thoughts on “The Fork in the Road

  1. Rocky says:

    Candice — of course Buckeye Nation appreciates the hard work and preparation that enabled Darron to make the awesome contributions he made to his teams’ successes!

    And I, for one, appreciate the labor and worries and heartaches and love from his momma that made him the man he is today.

    Well done, lady.

    I hope you know you’ll always be welcome to drop by the tailgate for a hot cider 🙂

    Like

  2. Debbie Cass says:

    Wow! This was perfect. I’ve been where you are now twice in my life, and even though it was one of the most difficult things I’ve been through, I am so proud of the women ” my girls” have become. I know you are so proud of your son and the fine man he has become, as well.
    All the best to you and Darron as you enter this new adventure in your lives!!

    Like

  3. Dori says:

    I know the feeling all to well myself…it’s so hard. It gets easier but a mother and son bond is unbreakable. Don’t worry…he will cal you and when you hear about the decisions he’s made or just life events know that he made them with you in mind and you trained up a child a way that he should go. Saying prayers for you Ms. Candace.

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  4. Colleen Marshall says:

    Lady – I have watched you be mother, mentor, cheerleader, nag, friend, guidance counselor and sounding-board for your baby, and I say with assurance that you could not have loved him more or done a better job. He is a kind, respectful and accomplished young man, and that is largely due to the work of his kind, resourceful and accomplished mother. I cried when my son went to college – and I could see his dorm room from my office window. I cried when my daughter went to college, and I cried when each of them stood before God and man and got married. Crying for their successes is a good thing. It sure as hell beats the alternative.

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  5. mrskmg says:

    You have raised an amazing young man and he has a wonderful mother. It is hard to let them go and even harder to let them make their own decisions. All we can do is be there for them. Thank you for sharing your post it brought back a flood of memories….

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  6. Michelle Collier says:

    Hi Candice! I am praying for your comfort and God has Darron! You have done an awesome job raising this young man. He was respectable even out of your sight-I remember well. While you worked, he did not have company running in and out of your home…yes ma’am was always his greeting to me when we crossed paths and would ask if he was ok. Well done my friend!

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  7. Lori Radabaugh says:

    I cried! As a mom, I have gone through the same feeling. When my daughter went off to the Navy, I wondered the same things. When my boys went to college, even though they were not far, I wondered what if they need me. My baby is 23, oldest 26. I sleep with phone by my head. My daughter has sleep issues so she may text at 2 am. I wake up and reply. Once a mom, always a mom. You are strong. I admire how you served, raised a great son and still put others before yourself! When things get tough, take a deep breath and think of hm playing as a child. It helps me!

    Like

  8. Dan Spracklen says:

    In the end as a parent, yes you make mistakes but when you look back, you have nothing to be but proud. The little things you worry about now, he will learn, they always do. Great story, thanks for sharing. Good luck in the NFL Darron! I’m sure you will make your mom even more proud.

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  9. rcoley says:

    Oh, Candice. This really got me. As I watched my older son pack up yesterday to go back to OSU for spring semester of his second year I had a similar thought: “Does he still need me?” He sees so grown. He’s figured things out and can do this adult thing on his own now. But that’s the point, right? That’s what we’ve been working for, right? Yet, he’s still my baby boy.

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  10. Don still says:

    Very well said and it is never easy letting go but if we never let the fly on their own they will never be able to handle things on their own. God bless

    Like

  11. Pam Wilson says:

    You are a natural mom. Some of us have felt this same way! Hold your head high, you’ve raised a good son/man. He makes us all proud.

    Like

  12. Cindy says:

    And here I sit at work with tears streaming down my face too. My boys are 12 and though I know there are several years before they are walking on their journey to adulthood – whatever that will be — they are flying faster than I ever imagined they would. I can’t imagine doing this thing called motherhood as a single parent. I admire what you have done. Congrats to both of you! You’ve done great.

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  13. Sandy Vorhies says:

    I also left for the service when I was a younger woman. I raised 2 daughters and the feeling of letting go of your children so they can live their lives is a big and changing moment. My hugs and prayers are with you both. You have done excellent so be proud.

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  14. Roh Hardin says:

    Candace, You will be fine. You are strong, independent woman and mother. You have a great son. As a single parent of a son, I know you will do great. I enjoyed reading your blog. My baby is 41 and have lived abroad most of his adult life. But the bond we have will never be broken, nor will your bond with Darren.

    Like

  15. Joan Angus says:

    You should be proud of your son. He has not only made his mother proud, he has made an entire city proud. Our young Buckeyes are just that…young bucks. It is normal for them to screw up and make mistakes, but when thy are BUCKEYES, they ar under a microscope. I dint ever remember anything negative being broadcast about Darron Lee. I know you’ll miss him…more than a little. You can rest at ease knowing that you’ve done your job so far. Trust me when I say, the job NEVER ends. My grown daughters are responsible and respectful, but every so often their dad and I still hold out the safety net to soften the fall. You’ll see, it never ends…thank God!

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  16. Kelley says:

    What a great mom & son relationship…brought tears to my eyes (and I never cry!)…have loved watching your son play for the Buckeyes and will love to continue watching him as he makes his way through the NFL. Good Job, Mom!

    Like

  17. Carrie Dutton says:

    I have 3 kids in NA schools…2 are little football players….we have always followed your sweet boy and cherished interactions at games and clinics…rest assured, he knows who he is…God speed to his endeavors and God’s peace to a blessed momma!

    Like

  18. Linda Witchey says:

    Hi Candice, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes because I know exactly what you are going through. I have done the same thing twice. Both of my children live at opposite ends of the country. I have stood at my door and watch both moving trucks move away. I am proud of you and myself because God’s plan for our children is that we raise them to be strong to go forward on their own. Good job with Darren, I can just tell he is a fine young man. Keep busy and before you know it there will be a time for you to spend time with him again.

    Like

  19. Toni Nijssen says:

    Candice, the fact that you will miss him shows you’re a good Mom. There are a lot of kids out there who don’t know what it is to have a Mom that cares. He’ll do fine and he’ll do you proud just like always.

    Like

  20. Mike T. says:

    Candice, congrats to you and Darron. You were both great representatives of Ohio State and will be buckeyes forever. I can’t wait to watch Darron at the next level and will immediately become a fan of that team (as I will with all of our guys drafted). Best of luck in the future and hopefully this wont be the last time we hear from you.

    Like

  21. foxla61 says:

    I have two children (OSU alumni as well) 🙂 – one on the east coast and one near the west coast – that I also had to watch leave home. What a beautiful job you’ve done describing the heart wrenching time of letting them go. I wish you and your son the best. Buckeye Nation will miss him.

    Like

  22. Patrick Hullinger says:

    What a great read. Sometimes I think people forget these games go beyond the field. The people and lives in the background. The things such as laundry and id’s. I think sometime we forget they are people with routine and relationships and lives. Congrats to you and your son. I hope the pride overtakes you everyday and makes you smiles. You both seem very deserving.

    Like

  23. Terry Tupps says:

    Enjoy very much watching you on the news! You are a true professional. Have very much enjoyed watching your son on Saturdays getting better and better at his craft. He a a true Buckeye and will represent you, himself, TOSU and all TOSU fans in the NFL. I and many wish him all the best and a great career wherever that takes him. God Bless!!

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  24. Michelle says:

    Now I’m balling too. I’m a single Mom that raised a wonderful son as well! The most important role in our lives & definitely the most rewarding! Thoughts & prayers to you

    Like

  25. Rebecca Baker says:

    As avid Buckeye fans, my family has collectively “adopted” Darron Lee as our favorite. Part of it is because of his relentlessness on the field, but also in part because my parents lost a child in infancy 39 years ago– “Darren Lee”. Love this story!

    Like

  26. Docmont says:

    Beautiful. You will be fine, madam. Thank you for the gift of your son to Buckeye Nation, but more importantly thank you for being a strong mother. Many are very grateful for you as well

    Like

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