For some reason my alarm clock is set for 5:30am, despite the fact that I always hit the snooze button. For some reason the snooze is set for 9 minutes. Not ten, not fifteen, not five, but nine. It must have been some preset. Regardless, I usually just need 5 more minutes. I just kind of want to savor the feeling of the warm bed, I want to stay oblivious just a little bit longer, and then I can face the day - sort of. Some days, and even weeks, are worse than others and I will hit the snooze button more than once. I just can't face it - whatever it is - a person, a problem, the unknown of the day. I just want five more minutes! "Can I just have 5 MORE MINUTES?" It reminds me of my kids at birthday parties, or their grandparents house when their cousins are there, or the worst, the beach. I remember a birthday where I had taken all four kids to McDonald's. I told them 5 more minutes. A woman next to me, who was a grandmother of another party-goer, looked at me and said, "There is no way they are going to leave, you know that, right?" I just looked at her. "We'll see." You see, I think the 5 more minutes lets the kids know, lets me know, I have to savor this. I have to hold onto the moments as much as I can because they are slipping away. It's like an alarm clock that says, Watch out - it's going to be over soon! And our reaction is one of escalated joy, not sadness. The leaving is still bittersweet, but we've made it a little sweeter by savoring the experience. Every time we had to leave any place that 5 More Minutes was like a gift I could give my kids and it was free, just for the asking. "Can we PLEASE stay 5 MORE MINUTES?" they cried. "Um...," I would say, (build anticipation) "Yes!" "Yeah!" they screamed as they ran back to their cousins (always a tough departure) or their friends or the party or to the waves on the beach, "We got 5 MORE MINUTES!" The best! That doesn't mean there aren't tears. I still cry, literally, every time we are driving home from the shore after heavenly days of bliss with family and friends and the ocean. And I'm forty-..., well, old enough not to be crying!
A few weeks ago I was in a breakfast cafe with a friend. After many patrons had come and gone, and many tables had turned over, and the waitress had brought the check and we paid, and then had one more cup of coffee, we finally turned to look out the window. It was raining, and there was a line of people waiting to get in. We looked at each other and said, "We should really leave!" But we both shook our heads no, laughed, and said, "5 more minutes!" It increased the intensity of our conversation. We quickly ran through the list of things we had yet to talk about. And what about this? And what about that? And yes, we will do this, and we will do that! And our five minutes was so vital, so important. We accomplish a lot when we know our time is running out. We had a new determination to suck the marrow out of our five minutes. I suppose it is mindfulness. Living in the moment, because there are only five of them left! A new increased awareness of how special our time was and is together. A grander appreciation for our friendship and our conversation and our laughter. Everything was heightened! The joy was more palpable.
Maybe you know where I am going with this. Maybe you are feeling an alarm clock going off in your life or in your house. The alarm clock going off here is College. My oldest is leaving. He is going to leave his bed, our kitchen, our stairs, our milk, all the countless little things that I hear and see throughout the day that let me know he is around, and he is going to travel off to the unknown. We won't be asking him if he left clothes in the washer, or if he needs anything to go to the dry cleaner, or money for gas, or if he wants chicken or burgers for dinner, or what cereal he wants at the grocery store, or if he will pick his sister up from school, or how the party was. I am going to miss those things so, so much. The alarm is set for August 18. That is less than 3 months away, so I am now shouting "3 More Months!" and the patron saint of alarms is listening. And everything we do, everything we say, is filled with that heightened awareness, the knowing, the appreciation and the intense Joy of the last five minutes, the extra, the more - as the Jesuits would say, the Magis. I know it will not feel like 3 months, it will feel like 3 seconds. Between graduation parties and trips to the shore and having to go here (Mom, I have to go!) and work and chores, out of the 50,000 minutes we may actually have left together, it will feel like 5. Just 5 more minutes. But they will be filled with all the Joy and Love we can muster. A heightened awareness, a grand appreciation, and a palpable joy.
I will still cry when he leaves, just like I do when leaving the ocean. But the ocean is always there and he will always return. A little different. A little changed. I will be a little different too. But for now, I will make sure I listen to the story of his favorite pair of shoes, and why he likes to wear corduroys even in 80 degree weather. I will listen to his laugh and record it in my heart. I will watch him a little longer when he comes into the room. I will study his face and his hair and his hands. I will still ask him what kind of cereal he wants at the store, even though I should know this already. I will soak it in when he sits at the counter with his two brothers and they banter back and forth and laugh and look at each other. I will hold on to the moments when he laughs and teases his sister and rolls his eyes about her latest story. I won't ask him to get his shoes off the stairs for the thousandth time, I will just look and soak it in. I won't mind that he left his retainer on the downstairs sink, or that he has 8 glasses up in his room that belong in the kitchen, in fact, in the dishwasher. I will watch him as he leaves and says, "See ya!" and I will remember that he will be leaving for good soon, hearing that distant alarm clock. I will watch him when he returns and says, "Hey, I'm home!" and I will yearn for the day when he says it when he comes home from college.