I was grilling food and Braden walked outside. It was still over 70 degrees out so it struck me as curious. We chatted some and then he asked if we could visit the zoo before he goes to college. “Before he goes to college” felt so far a month ago and now here we are with less than a week away. 

Yes, of course we can go to the zoo. He pulls up his phones to check the weather for the lowest temp this week and it’s set. He goes inside and I barely hold it together remembering how we used to go to the zoo so much when he was younger that he had every exhibit fact board memorized. 

Today was zoo day and we picked up Jimmy Johns lunch to eat there.  As we pull out of the lot,  Braden sees a sign advertising cinnamon buns at Colonial Cafe. He laughs. I ask what was funny. He says the sign described the cinnamon buns as “Huge and Gooey.”

Me: ugh. Those are poor choice words for food. I don’t want anything huge and gooey. 

Him: Right? They could have at least used “respectable and dignified.”

I burst out laughing so hard that I started crying. As the tears of laughter appear, a few tears of sadness mix in. Together they look identical and only I know that today, they fall differently. 

Somehow cartoons come up on our way and I mention that Sesame Street might be the single most important piece of TV ever to come out of the US. He agreed. He then says he remembers first seeing Indonesian hand puppets in a cartoon and thought they were just the coolest things. Of course he remembers this, I think. I wondered who will remind me of these precious memories next week. 

As we drive he streams his music, like he typically does. Somehow he always chooses the perfect music. Many times it’s his go-to list of: Andy Gibb, George Michael, Stevie Wonder. Sometimes it’s Yeezy, or Jeezy? I can’t remember the difference. Today he plays disco and it feels just…right. I enjoy the music and wonder who will play the music next week. 

We take the highway to the zoo and pass a semi truck. He mentions a statistical fact about US shipping and cargo ships. Driving with Braden is never boring. Sometimes he mentions elements of urban design he sees or other seemingly random data that must pop into his head all day long. And while I am a captive audience at the time, I wonder who will keep me on my toes and learning next week. 

We show up to the zoo and the animals act like they were waiting for us. They were more active than maybe I’ve ever seen in my life. Braden was in his element with all the showmanship. “Well, sea lions might have moved up on my list of favorite animals.” he says as they leap around the pool waiting for snacks. We stop at a gift shop and he gets a super cool drinking glass with an octopus on it. It’s glass, because he is grown enough now to have the real thing. When did that happen? 

“You’re lucky he’s going to be close” is something I’ve heard over and over. Yes, I am absolutely lucky in that aspect, I am fully aware of how fortunate I am. But it doesn’t change how removing one person from my daily life changes how I see, hear and learn every day he is not here. So yes, I will get used to this, but it is absolutely something I will miss about him. 

We come home and have dinner. I remind him to take out the garbage for the last time and he says “Oh! I can turn off my garbage reminder alarm now. Or maybe I’ll just leave it for fun.” For that small time I didn’t have to wonder what he will be doing next week on Wednesday at 7pm because I know that alarm will sound and for just that moment, he will still be connected to our home thinking of us too.