My Life Changed Today.

I dropped my firstborn off at college today. Big moment. Big day. For any parent.

This closes a circle for me in a unique way.

My son, Joseph, was born near Seattle when I was at college in Virginia. I’ve told his story before. It’s a powerful one. And needless to say, having a child while you’re in college isn’t exactly a planned event.

Next Monday Joseph starts classes at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. That is a planned event. The only college at which he applied. The place my lovely bride, Stephani, said “he has to go here!” during our first visit to the campus. The place I knew he needed to go as well on that same visit.

That isn’t what the odds said would happen to Joseph. Born to an unwed mother without a college degree, and a jobless father still working on his. More often than not that doesn’t end well. Stephani and I were told as much.

Joseph is not only going to a very good school, he’s joining the Army ROTC. If you really experience Joseph that’s not a surprise. That sometimes absent-minded introvert is a magnificent, caring teammate with powerful leadership and teaching abilities that are waiting to be tapped.

My wife has cried a few times in the last day. I haven’t. It’s time for Joseph. Time for him to learn some lessons in life he can’t learn under our roof. I’ll worry about him, especially his absent-mindedness. But, it’ll be ok. Stephani knows that too, it’s just a little more emotional for her because she’s especially close to him.

We’ve now moved our first child out of the house. One down, one to go (our daughter, Sophia, turns 16 next month). And I just turned 40. Stephani will do so next year.

You know what that means?

A truly new chapter in our lives. Empty-nesting with vigor. In control of our lives with a huge swath of our adulthood in front of us. And if you’ve read our writing or know us, it’s no secret that will be an exciting new journey.

That’s what awaits us. We are eager for that beyond words.

We’re not there yet. But, the time of transition is here.

It comes as the fine young man we raised, starting in truly challenging circumstances, makes his own transition as well.

Joseph is a history geek like me. He plans to study history and political science, my two majors in college. I went to Mary Washington College, now the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The campus is on a Civil War battlefield, and a famous one at that.

What does that have to do with dropping my son off at college in Helena, Montana?

Stephani and I had a picnic dinner on the grounds of the state Capitol after dropping off Joseph. After we ate we looked up at the statue prominent on the grounds outside the Capitol entrance.

Who was it? Thomas Meagher, who died as acting Territorial Governor of Montana in 1867. I didn’t know that. What I did know is Meagher was a Union Brigadier General during the Civil War, commanding the Irish Brigade. Where was one of that unit’s most famous actions? Charging the Sunken Lane at the base of Marye’s Heights…at the Battle of Fredericksburg. The University of Mary Washington sits on Marye’s Heights, with Sunken Lane serving as one border of the campus.


I don’t believe in coincidences. It’s a quirky connection, but a real one. Joseph’s journey began when I was in college. It changes today as he begins his own college career. And it marks how my own journey — and that of my lovely bride — is changing too.

Change can be scary. My son doesn’t like it a lot. As I type this he’s probably getting close to going to bed for his first night in his dorm room, after what has been a long day. He might be a little scared, not because college intimidates him, but because he knows change can make him uncomfortable at first.

Ain’t that the truth. Change isn’t always comfortable, but it’s necessary, and often rewarding. That’s why I’m looking forward to this next phase of my life. And I’m glad the transition had such a clear sign today that it was meant to be.

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