I Needed a Sign That My Son Would be Okay at College

We hugged him goodbye.

The freshman convocation ended, and we were instructed, in the most abrupt way, to say goodbye to our adult children – adults, no, children. 

Don’t cry, don’t cry. 

I gave my husband the stink eye.

Don’t you cry, either. 

“Be safe, be smart, stay the course,” I whispered in my son’s ear as I held his cheek close to mine, his heart thumping against my chest. “You’ve got this.”

I needed a sign and I got it. (@darcadi via Twenty20)

My husband and I left the auditorium hand in hand, leaving our oldest, Jake, five hours away. It started with a sniffle, a tear wiped from my eye, and then erupted into a full-blown, snotty, heaving, ugly cry. I backhanded the stream of tears before they reached my mouth.

I needed a sign that my son would be okay at college

I was drowning in self-imposed anguish, and I just needed to trust that he would be ok. Blind faith failed me when it came to my children. I needed something objective, tangible, practical; statistics were useful, something to offer comfort. And there, on our car, was my sign. The opalescent dragonfly perched on our front window, waited for us to start the car, and then flew, within inches of the glass, guiding us out of campus. 

“He’s ok,” I said. “Grandpa, your dad, someone is watching over him.” 

I felt immediate relief; a unique sense of calm washed over me – all from the simple vision of an insect. 

I had seen dragonflies all summer

My dragonfly summer began months earlier. 

“I have seen so many dragonflies,” I said to my husband. I credited the Odonata sightings to the heat, humidity, and more golf racked up than ever before. They flew low on the greens, skimming the ponds with shimmering iridescence. 

“It’s interesting,” he remarked, “I only see them when I’m with you.”

I didn’t think much of it. 

And then, I noticed them – everywhere. 

Their presence became apparent, not just to me. 

“It’s your perfume. You must have a scent. It’s the bright color of your shirt.” People made excuses. Others believed it was someone who had passed, sending a message, letting their presence be known, allowing their spirit and guidance. I liked this idea. The belief that this dragonfly was a spirit guide, someone who was watching out for us, created a calm, a comfort.  

Covid move in was like a sci-fi movie

Two years later and COVID has changed the rules of college drop off. As I prepare to send my youngest, Luke, to school, I peer into the unknown with a bottle of disinfectant and a list of ever-changing guidelines. Only one parent per room and limited to one hour for dorm setup. I scrambled in like I was on a game show timer, beating the buzzer with my Lysol spray and wipes.

I made the four-layered bed, sweating through my mask, then tag-teamed my husband for his turn. We walked briefly through campus, nodding at other masked parents and students. There were no meetings and greetings; there wasn’t any fanfare; nothing made it feel natural to leave. 

“I guess you can go.” My youngest son was ready to start – begin the morphed adventure of college. There is no normal; we all know it. But this, this freshman orientation, isolation, shelter in pods, create your bubble, this felt like a social experiment from a sci-fi fantasy. 

I reached up and threw my arms around his neck as we stood in the dorm’s lobby. “I adore you, text me, be safe.”

Don’t cry, don’t cry. 

My husband pulled him in close, “you’ve got this.”

Don’t cry; I willed the words to my husband. 

Once agin, I was looking for a sign

We walked through the automatic doors, and tears welled in my eyes. Every drop-off is a piece of my heart chipped away and left at that location for safe-keeping. My husband grabbed my hand. “He’s going to be great.”

Yes, I nodded my head, unable to verbalize. We walked in silence.

I yearned for confirmation. I wanted comfort through something tangible, objective, qualitative; I needed a sign.

And then I saw it. As we turned the corner, flying a foot away, at eye level, flitting in circles waiting for us, as if to say – don’t worry, I’m right here, I have him – my dragonfly. 

You Might Also Want to Read:

About Karen Geiger

This is a reminder that we are not alone. Karen Fatica Geiger believes the messy, honest, and hilarious moments of life are the ones that need to be shared. Taking an unfiltered approach to midlife, Karen launched her blog, Good Luck with That where she explores aging, raising teens, and living with a little grace and a lot of luck. A former speech-language pathologist, she is currently working on her debut novel, a cozy mystery. Karen lives in NWPA with her husband, two college-age boys, and the star of her Instagram page, two-year-old Australian Labradoodle, Deacon Blue. Along with her blog, Karen has contributed to the online publications Grown and Flown, Her View from Home, and Better after 50.

Read more posts by Karen

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.