Where Do I Park My Flying Car?

Twenty-six years to the day I graduated from high school, I found myself seated on aluminum bleachers in a covered stadium, drenching rain giving way to scattered clouds and a gorgeous sunset poking through stands of Douglas fir trees. And then “Pomp & Circumstance” began playing, and history repeated itself. 

Last night, Rusty graduated from high school.McKenzie Sunset 

It all feels a little bit surreal. When your kids are born – or in some cases, when they’re still in the womb – if you’re like most parents, you quickly figure out the year they’re going to graduate from high school. And from that point on, it becomes a mental countdown of sorts. I guess it’s because high school graduation is such a rite of passage and marks the transformation from childhood to adulthood, especially since it coincides so closely with your kids’ 18th birthday. So way back in 1995, we knew that our son would graduate in the year 2013. It seemed incredibly far off and distant at the time. God, I’d be ancient then, I figured. And I’d probably get to his graduation ceremony in a flying car. 

HHS Class of 2013But my life didn’t turn out as expected. Divorce threw a wrench in the works. The kids only live with me part-time.* These events conspired to make the Big Day feel…well, a little less big than I’d imagined it would, I guess. It doesn’t mean I’m not proud of his accomplishment or eager to see what sort of life he builds for himself. But the whole thing just sort of felt anticlimactic, for lack of a better word. At the same time, it’s huge. Last night marked a true turning point. Everything is changing, and that’s where the * comes in. Both kids will be living with their mother full-time now, and I don’t know how to feel about that. Rusty was ready to move on, and it’s clearly time. But Audrey…well, Tara and I both hoped she’d choose to stay with us. I selfishly think we have a lot more to offer in terms of stability and responsibility, and would love to see her grow and mature without being in the shadow of her older brother. She would benefit from becoming her own person. However, she’s old enough to make her own choice, and I always said I wouldn’t be hurt if she picked “the other house.” Tara reassured me that it was nothing personal, that kids tend to gravitate toward their mothers, that she gets along very well with her stepfather’s extended family, and that our door is always open for her should she choose to come live with us at some future point. I love her for saying those things, because the truth is, despite my words I was a little down this morning when I read the e-mail from my ex confirming Audrey’s decision. 

The only life I’ve known has been one that included kids, at least part-time. And yes, we’re still working out the arrangement, and it’s not like they’re never going to stay with us again, but it won’t be the same (every other weekend maybe? I don’t know yet), and that’s going to feel weird. I remember the fall of 2006, when we first separated and moved into our own townhouses. My ex was having surgery, and the kids were with me for those first three weeks. In the months leading up to that, without going into detail, I was pretty much there for them full-time, as well. And then came the first Sunday in which our shared custody kicked into gear, and I had to drop them off at their mother’s house for the week. It felt very strange. The house was quiet. I was lonely. I missed them terribly. I blogged about it then, and wrote, 

I can feel the absence of my kids very strongly.  The emptiness weighs upon me.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suffocating beneath a cloak of depression, no, it’s nothing so dramatic as that.  Just a little bit of separation anxiety.  I miss them, which is totally natural considering I haven’t been apart from them for longer than twelve hours or so in four and a half months. 

I dropped them off at MA’s place around 6:30.  It was bizarre, pulling up beside her condo and walking them to the door, Rusty and Audrey pulling suitcases filled with a week’s worth of clothes, while I helped with their backpacks for school.  Talk about surreal.  Life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. 

I just keep thinking, now I’m going to miss half their lives.  A little melodramatic, maybe, but…half their lives.

That isn’t sitting too well with me right now.

Everything was new and weird then, and it was an adjustment. And also a novelty. Lest you think I spent months wallowing in despair, that simply isn’t the truth. By the end of that first week I had written,

My first kid-free week is nearly over.  Wednesday night, I was eating leftover pizza on the couch while drinking a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and watching Boondock Saints on DVD, a movie that is chock full of blood.  And I couldn’t help but think, the single life isn’t all that bad, after all.

It all simply became part of a new reality, and I won’t lie – I grew to love my freedom. Quickly. It was nice being a full-time dad one week, and then being able to kick back and do whatever I wanted the following. The arrangement enabled me to discover my true self, and become the person I was always meant to be. I’m convinced of that. 

So, this is simply a new new reality, and it too will be fine. Looking at the bright side, hey – at least now we’ll have a guest room! Come visit, you out-of-towners. 

And bring booze. 


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

12 thoughts on “Where Do I Park My Flying Car?

  1. Sounds very bittersweet. Congrats to your son on his graduation! A big high five to Tara for knowing just what to say! And a glass clink to the next chapter in life, for you, you and Tara, and both your families.


    1. That sounds like a fair tradeoff! But we’ll have to “Canadian up” the joint. Stock up on moose in the freezer, fill the garage with beer, play nothing but Rush and Neil Young on the ol’ turntable…


  2. Beautifully expressed post, Mark!

    “So, this is simply a new new reality, and it too will be fine.”

    Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s simply a new reality and chapter in both YOURS and THEIR lives.

    And I think it’s wonderful that you and your ex gave them the freedom of making their own choices, because as hard as I’m sure it was for you to hear that, you EMPOWERED them to be adults.

    You GO, buddy!

    Have a SUPER weekend!

    Great photos!


    1. Well, the kids have been through plenty these past 7 years. We decided they were old enough to make their own decisions concerning their lives. Not that it isn’t bittersweet, but I know it was the right thing to do.


  3. Wow–high school graduation–that must feel weird—especially knowing the kids won’t be with you as often. It’s weird to get old!

    By the way, we have a guest room here in Ecuador, as well–two of them actually. Hope you and Tara will come visit US now that you are kid-free! We have finally moved into our house, and furniture arrived over the weekend. Now we have something to sit on! Maybe that means I can write, as well. Give Tara a hug from me!



    1. Thanks, Kathy. It does feel weird…but we’ll get used to it. And believe me, we’d love to visit Ecuador sometime – it’s great knowing we’ve got a place to stay and a couple of tour guides should we choose to do so!


  4. I guess I must be one of those weird parents, I didn’t do the calculations to graduation. And because I moved away from Winnipeg just after my daughter’s 16th birthday, graduation really crept up on me. It entailed an 8 hour drive to see her graduation ceremony, spend the night trying to cram in visits with as many family & friends as possible & an 8 hour drive back the next day. Then we did the whole thing again 2 years later when she graduated from college.


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