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The Send-Off

I've known Mazi since he was two -- a precocious little boychild with a smile as wide as the sea and eyes so bright they'd melt a thousand stars. Though it's been a lifetime since he and his father came into my life, it feels like just yesterday that I was holding his little hand in mine, walking barefoot through the grass at Ft. Green Park -- giggling and twirling and talking about nothing and everything.

Mazi's mom raised him with lots of love, filled him with the pride of his people, and encouraged him to brilliant, and later, when he got taller and fresher and started smelling himself, his mother mustered up the courage to send her boy off to live with his father -- because, well, boys need their fathers. To guide them. Encourage them. Apply the pressure. Love them. Mush ‘em in the head when the situation calls for it, too.

Show them how to be men.

I've played my part, too, you know -- had a hot dinner on the table, waiting for him every night. Taught him how to wash his own clothes -- even how to get the stink out of his football gear (no easy feat!). Helped him understand those lil' girls he called himself dating. Talked him off the ledge whenever he and his Daddy got into their wars of will, and he just couldn't understand why the son can never, ever win over the father.

Things that will help him be a better man.

Mazi is (almost) a man now. And in no less than three months, he'll be heading off to Lafayette College -- off to the first day of the rest of his life on his own. And though the three of us have done our part to help him make it to that day intact, I can't help but to look at him differently, to wonder what will become of that precocious little boychild-turned-almost man. An honor student with great grades in the classroom and game on the football field, Mazi is headed for one of the country's elite institutions, for sure. I watched him busily send out applications, meet with college coaches, and visit universities, all while maintaining A's and B's in his honors and AP courses and working with a few school groups on extracurricular activities. Even as I saw him getting it done, I fretted about whether we'd done enough to see him through. Still do. It seems like there's so much more to teach him.

Like, shouldn't he learn how to cook the perfect scrambled egg?

Or how to iron a shirt with buttons?

Or make a grocery list and shop with coupons?

Or type a paper with more than just two fingers?

Or how to get over a broken heart?

I know he's on his way to being a grown-up. It's just hard to imagine letting go of this part of us -- our heart, whom we spent 17 years raising. No matter how big, smart, sensible, or accomplished he is/gets, I don't think any of us will be able to turn off our overwhelming need to make sure our son is emotionally, physically, and mentally safe and sound.

Figuring out how to be a part of his life, while letting him actually live his life, will be the big challenge.

Time keeps ticking.

I think he's gonna make it.

And somehow, so will we.

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