Last September I sat down and talked with my son about his responsibilities and his future. I told him that it was time for him to go out on his own and that I wouldn’t be doing him any favors by letting him stay at home any longer. I gave him until July 1 of this year. He moved out yesterday.

Joe turned 26 last week. He’s no longer eligible for my health insurance and, while he thought he’d be done with school at the end of May, he didn’t have enough credits to graduate so he’ll have to go again this Fall. My thinking was that he’d be done in May and he wouldn’t have that burden along with the new tasks of supporting himself. He’ll have to work that out himself.

I’ve been a mother for 33 years and I can say with absolute certainty that you never stop being a Mom to your kids and that letting go is the single hardest thing a Mom has to do.

My girls have been gone for a while. Michelle has been gone longer than she was ever home — 17 years. Linda left home 10 years ago to go live with her father after a particularly troubling year here at home. Both girls left home in anger and it broke my heart that they left under such circumstances.

Joe was my easy kid. He’d never been grounded, never sent to his room, nothing like that. He was an easygoing type of personality with a quick wit. He was loving, even at an age when it’s not cool to like your parents. He and I were the best of friends.

Which is why I’m struggling so hard with his absence now.

Like I told Lisa this morning, I know I did the right thing. As long as Joe lived here at home I’d continue to be a Mom and not hold him to his responsibilities.

Joe paid his own way through college. He went to the community college I work at, and I was able to get him a tuition waiver, but he still had to pay fees and buy books. After he graduated from the community college he went on to a 4 year school where he paid his own tuition, bought his own books, and assumed the responsibility every aspect of his education. He took out a couple of small student loans but has them both paid in full as of this week. While taking 5 classes each semester, he continued to work at the job he’s had since he was a junior in high school — a job that, while classified as “part-time” still saw him working full-time hours. In the spring, it wasn’t unusual for him to work 60-80 hours a week without a day off during the entire month of May. But still, he persevered and worked hard at his studies and his job.

He couldn’t have done all of that if he’d had to support himself, a major reason why he was home as long as he was.

We helped him move the larger things to his new residence yesterday. I keep seeing his face as we left — wondering if it was sadness (like mine) or just fatigue at the physical strain of the day.

I miss my kid already.

I love you Joe, with all my heart.