The alarm clock goes off at 5:30. That’s an hour earlier than usual. Sam is catching a flight back east to visit colleges in Massachusetts then he’s off to Iowa for more of the same. The other night Sam was showing Debbie and I photos of the small commuter planes he’d be taking on the computer. He’s travelling alone. Debbie goes upstairs to wake Sam up as I make my way to the kitchen to start the coffee. When I hear some signs of life (floorboards creaking and the shower going on) coming from upstairs I yell, ” Sam, do you want coffee?” He yells back, “Yeah.”
As I grind the coffee beans I start to think about Sam doing this trip alone and how he will be away at school next year. A strange fear seeps in as I pour hot water over the ground coffee. He’s almost 18 years old, all packed and Debbie has made sure all of his flights, transportation from airports to colleges and all his arrangements once he leaves the house are all in order.
The coffee is done. Sam is running late. He yells down to me, “Daddy, do you know where my belt is?” I tell him to just wear one of mine. I pour a cup of coffee for Debbie, Sam and myself as I think about him still calling me daddy instead of dad like Henry does. My mom pulls up in front of our house to take Sam to LAX. I walk outside and sit down next to her in the passenger seat my coffee almost spilling as the automatic seatbelt engages when I close the door. I tell her that Sam is running late because he can’t find his belt.
We talk for a few minutes about colleges, the weather back east, her allergies and I ask her why Easter is always on a different Sunday every year. I find it strange how it can be early or late depending on the year. She says something but I’m not even listening. I go back inside to see what’s taking Sam so long. He’s standing in the sunporch all ready to go. I give him an awkward hug and tell him to have fun and be safe.
I walk back into the kitchen to help with the lunches for the rest of the boys. Macaroni and cheese is always a big hit. I start to feel that fear creeping around me again as I tear open the powered cheese packets and mix them with milk and butter. As I’m pouring boiling water into their lunch thermoses I spill the cheese mixture all over the counter and in between the side of the stove. It’s a mess and somehow I manage salvage some of the mixture. I try to extend it with grated cheddar,Â parmesan and some more milk. The macaroni is ready and I take it off the heat but when I start to drain it into a colander in the sink I burn myself on the pot and dump everything on the floor. What a mess. Debbie kicks me out of the kitchen and takes over the lunches. I sit down at the head of the table with my coffee. Ollie and Simon are making their own mess with Cheerios. Sam’s coffee cup is left untouched in front of his seat. I scoot over and sit in his seat and decide to have a second cup of coffee this morning.