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Archive for the ‘loss’ Category

My son has always been an “I can handle it myself” kinda kid.  From the early days, if he could get himself a snack he would do so.  He was dressing himself as soon as he was able.  He wanted to do his homework on his own from the start, and he did not want help memorizing his spelling words or geograpy.  He gritted his teeth when I taught him how to ride a bike–it took a few times for him to admit he kinda needed me at the start.

It’s a great quality to have, this independence and self-reliance, and I have always supported and encouraged it myself or by making sure he participated in organizations that did the same, such as attending Montessori for preschool and kindergarten.

Still, I often felt like I was missing out on some of the “mommy” stuff I always accepted–and looked forward to–as coming along with having kids.

“I can do it, Mommy,” he always said.

“I know you can,” was my standard reply.  “But there’s nothing wrong with asking for help every now and then.”

The last time I was able to help him with school issues, without seriously damaging his relationship with me, was in 4th grade, when he was being asked to learn the “New” Long Division, which wanted you to divide by starting from the right and going left instead of starting at the left and moving right.  He and I looked at it over and over and over….we went on YouTube and watched videos of this insane process, talked to other parents, who were having just as much trouble….Finally, I taught him the “normal” way to do long division and, when he got it in under a minute and said, “This actually makes sense! Why the hell are they teaching us this other way?” (I allowed the obscenity; it was used in context and I’d been using it plenty myself that night), I wrote a note to his teacher explaining the New Math was against our religion.

His teacher, a lovely lady who knew me well enough to know that she wasn’t going to win this fight anyway, just laughed when she got my note.

But that year was probably the last year my son even allowed me to see his homework, much less advocate for him.

I have learned, through conversations my son and I have had since his father and I divorced, that for the last five years, there was so much tension and animosity going on between me and his dad, my son just stopped asking for help.  He never knew when it would trigger something, either one of his dad’s moods or what seemed to him neverending anger from me, and he also felt like he was adding to the weight I carried: his dad was not happy.  My son knew that, he knew I was trying to help, even if I wasn’t doing a good job of it, and I had him and his sister to take care of, too.

He just dug in his heels and built up that bone-deep independence even more, telling himself, whenever an issue arose, “You can handle this yourself.”

He barely passed his Advanced Algebra course in 7th grade because of this, and he managed to pull off a D in Advanced Geometry by watching YouTube videos.

The mixture of pride and heartbreak that rose in me when he admitted this was a bittersweet tidalwave.

I had failed him, undoubtedly.  And yet….he had found his own way out.

“Thank you,” I said, the only words I could think of to say. “But I’m stronger now.  Let me help you.  When you need it.”

“It’s OK, Mom,” he replied.  “I’m OK.”

And I was resigned to accepting that, while I had somehow managed to be blessed with this child who pulled his own weight in a crisis, I would also never get the chance to let him lean on me as he had allowed me to lean on him.

But as I’m learning, I don’t really know what will happen.

My son has a knee condition with a long Latin name which I forgot a long time ago. Basically, his kneecaps are not growing in pace with the muscles and bones in his legs, and sometimes his knees will slip out of track.  A couple years of Physical Therapy and orthopedic shoes have helped, but there’s not anything permanent we can do until he stops growing. He manages it now, with patience and regular exercise and body awareness.  But running is a huge trigger.

In January, he started P.E., and the curriculum requires running the mile once a week. The second week (“I can do it, Mom; let me handle it”), he was in so much pain he could barely make it to my truck three blocks from school. He finally agreed to go see his Physical Therapist so we could get a note releasing him from the mile run,

His regular PT was already booked, and I could see, as his appontment progressed, that whatever the interim PT was saying to him, it wasn’t good.  At the end of the appointment, she came out with a cheery smile to talk to me “about his treatment.”

On the way to PT, my son and I had discussed the situation, and we agreed he didn’t need to get back into regular treatment.  He had been taking four mile long walks around the neighborhood for the last year without any problems, and he was fully able to get through a karate workout without any problems.  He just needed a note to get out of the mile run.

“So, we should probably schedule two sessions a week for about six months, is what I’m thinking,” said the cheerful PT.  “His hamstrings are tight and his hips are tight and …..” She droned on.

I spared a glance at my son, who was glowering in the dark way only half-grown men can glower. “Hang on, ” I said to her.  To him, “Go outside.  I’ll handle this.”

“Mom–”

“Out,” I said, handing him the keys to the truck.  Then I turned back to the cheerful PT and gave her a smile of my own.

Fifteen minutes later, my son returned.

“Excellent, all righty then, Liam, it was great to meet you,” said Cheerful.  “I’ll see you in six weeks?”

Outside, my son turned to me, “Geez, Mom. You should negotiate hostage situations for the cops.  I left with two appointments a week for six months.  I come back and I have one appointment in six months?”

“They just need to be able to say without a doubt you are under their care.”

“Yeah, I get it, but…geez, Mom.  You didn’t get mad.  When did you get so calm?”

I used to be calm.  I was never the most patient person, but when I became a mother, I felt settled, calm.  Long days would pass and, while I won’t deny I didn’t get stircrazy, I wallowed in the time I spent with him watching trucks rattle down our street or birds at the bird feeders.  I loved lying on the couch and watching him roll his cars over the carpet, where I’d created hills out of pillows. We took walks on the beach and talked about nothing and everything.  When he got mad, I never felt the need to get mad back.

Then his sister was born, and his dad wasn’t happy, and I felt like I was a hostage in my own home, in my own life. I lost my calm, and my impatience came back: the sooner I got through the day, the sooner I could go to sleep and wake up, hopefully start over.  Every day had the possibility to be a new day, a better day.  Soon I was steamrolling through our days together, my days with my husband, my friendships, anger the tide that drove me, waiting for the day when things would be…different.

It wasn’t even about having or not having the courage to leave my children’s father.  It was about me, believing I could fix it, believing I could find my way out of the mess I was only half responsible for, without looking around to see who might be able to help me. “I can do it, Mom,” I used to say to my own mother, long ago.  “I can do it on my own.”

Now I smiled.  I put an arm around my son’s broad back and gave him as much of a hug as an almost-15 year old will allow out in public.  “That’s what I’m here for,” I said.  It was all I needed to say.

“Yeah,” he said.  “OK, then.”

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It freezes me, this packing up of things that have belonged in my world for my entire adult life. I can only do a little at a time before the breathlessness comes over me, every muscle in my body succumbing to the shakes as if I were going through withdrawals.

“I know we’re going through ‘rough’ times right now,” I wrote in a card that I find nestled between a stack of books in the bedroom. “But no matter what, I will always love you.”

No matter what.

I tell my children this: “I will always love you. No matter what.” My son appears to accept this as fact and has never questioned exactly what he might have to do for me to not love him. My daughter is not so easily fooled.

“Will you still love me if I rob a bank?” she has asked.DSC_3026

“Yes. I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll still love you,” I reply.

“Will you still love me if I steal a car?”

“Yes. I will make you take the car back and turn yourself in to the police, but I’ll stand by you. I will still love you.”

“What if I become a vampire?” she says, “and try to drink your blood? Or a zombie, and I try to eat your brains? Will you still love me, no matter what, or will you stake me or chop me in half?”

(Honest, she has not watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Walking Dead. She doesn’t need to.)

I argue that’s a more difficult question, because if she’s a vampire, then she’s a demon, and if she’s a zombie, she’s already dead…but she will have none of it.

“I’m still me. Will you still love me?”

So I tell her yes, I will always love her. I might be disappointed in some of her choices or heartbroken that I might have to stake her if she attacks me, but I will always love her. No matter what.

Or at least, I will love the ‘her’ that she once was.

I don’t tell her that, but it’s the truth at the bottom of the phrase.

“I will always love you. No matter what.”

I don’t know when I signed that card with this phrase exactly, but given what I wrote in its entirety, I can narrow down the ‘when’ to within the last five years. “No matter what” was singularly based in what I thought I could possibly do that would change things at that time. It never occurred to me that my choices and actions might not have anything to do with anything. The end was not controlled by me.

I can go on loving, if I want to, no matter what. But it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t alter the fact that I can only control my choices, my actions–my love.

There is a new box beside the door which will go out when the kids are picked up tomorrow. It’s

SONY DSCnot a big box. But it’s full of meaning. I think. And I can’t do anymore tonight. I need to sit on the deck and let the tremors subside and the breath return. I need to watch the moon rise like it has done for my whole life, and did before I existed, and will continue to do long after I have moved on from this existence.

 

I need to know some things do stay the same.

No matter what.

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