📅 Calendar convergences and driving Ms. Hayden (and Mr. Allistair)

stormtrooper jeff gordon weekend yard sale driveway

Even when you ain’t writing, you’re writing.

Kinda like the Rockies’ bats lately, my words have ground to a crawl. When this happens, you churn on. There are no timeouts in soccer or life. Your life GPS won’t direct you around it. No, the only way is through.

So when the calendar ambles along for an intersection for your kid to move to college and it’s also the 19th anniversary of the day your dad died, well, there are stories.

Even if you don’t have time right away to write them. Or maybe you try and get seven graphs in and realize you’re so not doing the feelings justice. It’s like getting Frosted Flakes but pouring them into skim milk. WHO DOES THAT?

I’m not sure if it’s a story of happiness or sadness.

It’s both, quite purple, and not red for happiness or blue for sadness as Pablo Picasso might have opined. So the best is to sort the details in your mind so you don’t get long-winded like a city council meeting. And of course, you must remember to tell about the praying mantis.

hayden go aug 14 college street
Hayden leaving home to get to college last week.

That August date

Things just happen on Aug. 14.

Mostly it’s the day in 2000 when my dad died at 12:30 in the afternoon in Duke Hospital. I’d switched my prayers from please wake him, God to Please do your will already. I just wanted him not to suffer. I’d kiss him goodbye on his forehead after visiting hours.

For Me, for Madison, and for the baby to be named later, I’d say.

Hayden entered the world almost three months after my dad left it. She came on a bright November morning. I missed my assignment to cover the Soup Bowl that day (SOUP Bowl – the in-town clash between Greensboro and Guilford colleges, not the Super Bowl.)

(At the risk of turning this post into the guide to Greensboro collegiate athletics: Fans bring cans of soup to the stadium in that game to stuff the shelves of local food banks.)

At the darkest time of my life, Hayden sprang into this world, not breathing. Blue as a Smurf. Should I call The Team? The nurse asked the doctor, and my distilled blood ran cold. No, he said and placed an oxygen tube into Hayden’s mouth.

She turned instantly pink and wailed, and my worn and worried heart felt like it’d been through the sugar glaze machine at Krispy Kreme – I was in love.

allistair ride last week lord knows my car

Season of miracles

We moved Madison, three years ago, into a dorm, too – on Aug. 14. Of all the days. The Aug. 14 that capped my first year without dad contained miracles, too, and I’ve written of them before. The days leading to it also hold potential for the unexplainable.

Such as the praying mantis hitchhiker I found last week.

I spotted him on the trunk lid of my hearty Hyundai Elantra as I pumped gas. I’d just dropped Hayden off at work, a week before we’d take her to college. This meatloaf brown bug walked toward me and turned his head. He definitely checked me out.

Did he stay on my car through a 30-minute drive at 70 (okay, 75) mph, could he?

I thought of moving him to a bush – if there were any. We were stuck on a concrete slab, an unfitting spot for a valiant insect. So I let go and let God. I left him on the car and hoped that whatever happened to him was what the universe wanted to happen.

Guess who was still there when I got there?

Forty-five minutes later. Highway driving. Alistair held his ground and made it all the way to Concord. I went into work and found myself anxiously wondering if he’d still be there at lunch. He was. Ambling across the back window, stopping to look at me again.

hayden college aug 14 soccer winston
Hayden moved in and making plans.

Finding greener grass

Alistair held on for a run for the Arches and back to the office.

After work, he was gone. I imagined he’d found the grass field ahead too great to pass on. I wasn’t sure when he got on and when he got off or if he was safe. I just knew I felt invested in his very livelihood. And he’s just a mantis. No offense, manti.

Hayden chose her school and picked the soccer program and decided she wanted to redshirt coming off ACL reconstruction.

All I had done was give her a ride. She’d hitched one on the way, maybe carefree as Alistair. Of course, I know where she is – and it’s like 43 minutes from my office to her school. Parents grow ill and children grow up and bugs grow on you. Or at least your car. 

You care for them and worry if they’ll hang on or just where they’re going. But if you do that too much you miss out. 

See, the night before Hayden moved out, I finally cried. I’d passed on her request to go to the store because of all the work I had to do. Work. So I cried, letting the gravity of all that convergence out in one fell swoop. Every chance is numbered, isn’t it?

We had a happy ending. We met with her and friends and family in the parking lot of a Cookout, killing shakes and smiling and hugging, two of her classmates prepping for their own moves to college. And I thought these stories are just starting to be written.

Even when they ain’t.


Life quote Mirren


  1. susi_snaps says:

    We just dropped our boy off at Florida Tech this past Tuesday. It’s only 2 hours away but still a big change. This mommy was sad, as exciting as it is. It seems to get easier each day but I miss having him home.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I loved your post, Susi! Both our kids are far enough away for freedom, but close enough for a quick trip, am I right?

      How’re you feeling? It’s been a week. I do miss her tons and hate to see her empty room!

      1. susi_snaps says:

        Same! It’s been odd for sure! But he seems to be doing great which makes me so happy!

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Glad to hear it’s been a positive start! We’ve had a few challenges, but I’ve been duly impressed with her resilience and resourcefulness. very proud.

  2. Aww 🥰 it’s so hard to be strong, I always cry when life changes come. I think I’m brave till they drive off. Beautiful post Eli. Sending hugs and love to your sweet dad heart. 💕💕

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It’s not so much the change as it was disappointment I passed on that opportunity! Who am I kidding? It was the change.

      1. I totally know what you mean! Hugs to you! xx

  3. Little Girl starts nursing school next week. Proud and oh, so glad, and wondering what will change next.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Excellent! Is she excited? Yes, the changes. We’re in this together.

  4. beth says:

    august 14, is clearly a day of emotional bridges for you. coming over and going back. the way life ebbs and flows.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It is, Beth, and the days around it too. I welcome it.

  5. Eli, great post. Hayden will do well, no doubt. She’s got a a great supporter and cheering section! 😊 The mantis likely had a message for you, especially to have stayed so long. Wishing you more calm, peace and quiet.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Carrie. I have a feeling she’ll be fine. I’ll always be there for her, but she’s also very self-sufficent and strong.

      The mantis made me nervous at first, fearing for his safety. Then I realized what a miracle he was. Thanks, Allistair.

      1. I have an impression that she is self sufficient and she knows she has you there if you are needed. And yes…Alistair’s presence…all of that and more.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        We came out of it all better on the back end.

  6. my30somethingadventures.wordpress.com/ says:

    August 14 must be such a big day for you and your family and this is such a lovely post that you’ve shared.

    That is amazing that Alistair held on for so long!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you, Anthea – I felt like I had a lot to cram into a single post, maybe three posts worth! I’m utterly impressed with the steadfastness of that bug … and thankful he joined me.

  7. Kisma says:

    All the feels goods on this one my friend. Here is to a great week.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Tiff. So far, so good.

  8. Lindsay says:

    A sad day indeed, her leaving, but a momentous day of pride and joy, too, eh?

    HUGS xo

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Yes, absolutely pride and joy, Lindsay. Thanks! xo

  9. Lyn says:

    Can’t believe Hayden has been at college 3 years already 😮 It only seems like yesterday you were telling us about it.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Yes, Madison has been in three years! Wow. And Camdyn will be in in another four. Wowee.

  10. Noellie says:

    What a wonderful story about the love a father has for his daughter…and a praying mantis too. We raised three daughters and sent them all off with heavy worrisome hearts. We were rewarded with beautiful grandchildren that love the praying mantis too. https://noelliesplace.com/2019/09/18/pregnant-praying-mantis/

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thank you, Noellie! It’s hard to let go, even though that’s why we hope to raise them strong and adventurous, don’t we? I’m not quite to the grandchild stage, but I imagine that will be incredible, too.

      I love your praying mantis post, by the way!

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