Almost two weeks ago, Tre graduated from high school. Every night since, I've thought about blogging about it, about starting with a picture of him from the beginning of the year:
...or no, how about a picture from the beginning of high school?
Holy cow, that is a little boy, there! Also, I think that was the last day his shirt was that white.
And then, in a blink of an eye, this is where we were:
And then on Monday, I put him on a plane for Turkey. It's enough to take a mama's breath away.
His biological dad came to graduation, which was the first contact they've had in twelve years. When we were filling out invitations, Tre said he thought it was time to reach out to him, and it was. And it was fine. (Naturally, it was more than that, but I'm trying to tread lightly here, because so little of this story belongs to me.)
This child of mine? This young man? He is a miracle. He is strong and sure and brave. He is striding out into the world, to smack into reality and clamber over God-alone-knows-what. He is kind and helpful and excited about...just about everything. And right now he's sending me pictures of the Hagia Sophia and remembering when we learned about it when we were homeschooling, a million years ago.
The day before graduation I wept to Clay, "All I need is another eighteen years. THEN I'll be ready." And he patted my back and tried to make comforting sounds, but mostly pointed out that we don't really want a 36-year-old living with us.
I do, though. I want to keep them all, always. I want to lock them up and know they're safe and hear their voices and laugh at their jokes every day for forever.
But then again, there is a feeling lodged in my ribcage right now. Alongside the grief of missing him, right next to the panic that this isn't anywhere near enough time, there is another feeling. It's what it feels like to watch your baby grow wings and fly.
And it's the only thing that makes it possible to let go.
This afternoon found me across town, taking Max to be evaluated by the school district audiologist. He'd apparently failed two previous hearing tests, so she wanted him in her office, in her soundproof box. Which sounds a little menacing, now that I think of it. Anyhow, she wanted to test him with no distractions to be sure of what was going on.
As she was leading him into her soundproof room, I asked if I should come in too. She said it was up to me, so let me answer that question for you, if you are ever left to decide it by your own audiologist: No. You do not want to go in the room with your child. It is not only soundproof, it is pretty much airless. And as you sit there, with the temperature steadily rising, your job is to not make any noise at all. And your phone must be off.
Max had headphones on, and the audiologist was talking to him, but all I could hear was him responding to her with random words, like he'd suddenly caught Tourette's from her or something. "Baseball," he said, "ice cream. Hot dog." I concentrated on not making noise and wondered if anyone ever fainted in the soundproof, airless room. Then I tried not to think about that, because it was SO QUIET in there (whenever Max wasn't speaking), that I was a little nervous that she could actually hear what I was thinking. Hey, it was hot, okay?
What I tried to do, instead, was think about all the other things I should really be doing. Clay's mom arrives tomorrow, so of course I have to plan to clean All The Things, even though she would never worry one bit about what my house looks like because she's A) not that kind of person and B) the mother of six grown kids herself. Also, I never get it all done anyhow. So I don't know why I do that. But I do.
Besides that, Tre's graduation is Thursday, and I have to pick up Kate so she can come with us, and Raphael has an Honor Band concert on Sunday, so that means extra rehearsals this week. And Max is leaving for a three day school trip on Monday, fertheloveapete.
This line of thought was making me consider hyperventilating, which I don't think would be perfectly silent, so I switched to thinking about other things. Like all the previous medical tests Max has had that turned out to be nothing. Like the ultrasound of his heart. Heh. Goober. And just a few years ago he had an EEG, and that was tickety-boo also. Hey, remember when I tried to convince everyone to say tickety-boo? Don't you think it's time you people got on that?
Well, eventually she finished, and released us from the booth (seriously, it looked just like a restaurant freezer from the outside. Airless). She told us to have a seat, and she'd be right over to explain the results.
Then she sat down with her papers and said that Max has a mild but significant hearing loss.
She said lots of things after that, but I just sort of looked at her and tried to process what she'd said. He might need hearing aids. He could hear all the sounds, but certain speech noises in particular are hard for him to decipher, making listening a mentally fatiguing job for him. He would need accommodation in the classroom. He needs to see an ear specialist.
For a few minutes he wasn't the only one having a hard time deciphering speech. I looked at her and nodded and failed to assimilate one word for a few minutes. There's nothing wrong with Max. He talked early! His enunciation has always been fine. He's a MUSICIAN, for goodness' sake!
I decided, sitting there, that I wouldn't be sorry that I'd homeschooled him. This would have been caught earlier if I had, but then again it wasn't a problem until he was in a classroom. Nope. Not going to do that.
I guess what I'm going to do is navigate the tasks ahead of me. I'm going to find the specialist he needs to see and make the appointments and figure it out. I'm not going to lie, I'm somewhat stunned.
I guess what we'll do is just whatever is next.
On Saturday I was at the grocery store, because that's how I roll. And I'm sorry, I've been saying that all the time recently, and I know that must be annoying because 2006 called and wants its phrase back. My children are going to injure themselves, with the eye rolling but hey. That's how I roll.
Anyhow, there I was, at the grocery store, seriously considering buying some greek yogurt (I resisted, again. I doubt my resolve will hold, though). When I finally turned my back on the yogurt, I strolled down the baking aisle. I tossed a box of parchment baking cups in my cart. I selected a bag of flour and tucked it in the cart too. I rounded the end of the aisle and headed back up the next one. There were canned tomatoes, and I spent a few moments trying to remember if we needed some. In the end, I decided to risk it. I neared the end of that aisle and glanced down at the purse sitting in the child seat.
It was not my purse.
It was, to extrapolate a little, not actually my cart. I'd sauntered away from the yogurt with someone else's cart, complete with purse.
I gaped at it for a moment, because that always helps. Since I'd gone all the way down an aisle, then back up the next aisle, I was back near the yogurt and I looked up to see my cart, marooned there all by itself. I seriously considered slipping away from the stolen cart and grabbing mine and disappearing. But there, just feet from my cart was a very worried woman, talking to a store employee.
"Well, ma'am," he was saying, "it can't have gone too far..."
"IT WAS ME!" I rushed over and pushed her cart toward her. "I STOLE YOUR CART! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to! I don't know what is WRONG with me! I just wasn't paying attention, and I grabbed the wrong cart! I'm sorry!"
She was greatly relieved at first, but as I babbled on, her relief started to wane a bit. She took the handle of her cart and started to ease away, nodding in what she seemed to hope was a reassuring manner.
"I don't think I put anything in your cart!" I babbled on. She glanced down and frowned.
"Um...except the flour. And the baking cups?" She fished them out and handed them to me. I apologized twenty more times, and then we each went our own way.
Except. Have you ever talked to a fellow shopper at the grocery store, at the beginning of your trip, and then as you work your way down the aisles, you find yourself coming face-to-face with that person over and over again? And it gets awkward, because how often can you smile and nod at a stranger before it gets creepy? But then again, you don't want to be rude either?
Yeah, well. This poor woman seemed to end up facing me on nearly ever single aisle. And she looked increasingly nervous about that, so I tried to reassure her that I'm a normal, non-stalking kind of person by smiling warmly every time I saw her.
The effect, after a few meetings, was that she'd swing around a corner and see me, and I'd reflexively grin so wide my cheeks hurt, and nod a few times. Maybe make a few reassuring sounds in the back of my throat. I'M DESCENDED OF PEOPLE FROM MINNESOTA. I CAN'T HELP IT.
The smiling routine was clearly unnerving her after a while, so I sternly ordered myself to knock it off. So the NEXT time I saw her, I schooled my features into a sober, neutral expression. When she picked up her pace and fairly trotted away from me, I realized that I was perhaps actually glaring a little. Which again, not comforting.
But it got worse, because just a little later, she parked her cart next to the tortillas and started perusing the offerings there. This was only a problem because I had JUST been going to get tortillas, and the ones I wanted were right behind her cart. I loitered at the spices for awhile, waiting for her to move, but she didn't, and I knew if she noticed me studying the artificial maple extract in her vicinity too long, she'd probably call security. I was considering calling security on my own silly self, just to put us both out of our misery.
Finally, I decided to just get over it, and get the dumb tortillas. As I reached across her cart, she swung around and we came face-to-face. Again. This wouldn't have been so terrible, except I flinched. And dropped the tortillas in her cart. She picked them up wordlessly, handed them back to me, and turned and left.
I...assume she'd finished her shopping? Probably?
You might be wondering why I'm telling you this story today, and I assure you I have a point. Two actually. First of all, it was still Mother's Day when I started this, and my own mother thinks I should blog more often. So this one's for you, Mom.
And secondly, I want to salute all the moms out there. We're doing our best. I truly believe that. Even though sometimes it looks...a little strange.
I have to tell you how amazing it was for me to watch the Indiegogo campaign for Tre's robotics team. The first contribution made me cry. And then when my best friend contributed. And then when I found out it was actually her kids who had pooled their money. And I cried the first time someone I didn't know contributed. And when someone gave $10, which was incredibly touching for some reason.
My aunt was one of the people who called and offered to cover my hotel room.
"I don't know what to say," I stammered.
"You say thank you."
She was right. I needed to go. And I went, because people are actually amazing, no matter what TMZ has to say about the world. People are amazing.
And so I say thank you.
St. Louis was incredible, and the days flipped by insanely fast. Suddenly we were finding our seats in a packed room for the final awards ceremony. In the aisle a group of kids did front hand springs and back flips, out of sheer joy and youthful exuberance. As the lights dimmed and the M.C. took the stage, it hit me.
Not just World, not just this trip, not just his year, but for me as Tre's mom, robotics is over.
I won't be sitting in any more gyms, forgetting to breathe with the anxiety of a match. I won't get emotionally involved in how many cubes are in a basket and how high a flag is raised. I won't watch my son's face radiate joy over a perfectly executed autonomous round.
It's really over.
In the dark, tears poured down my cheeks, unchecked. I picked up my phone and sent Tre a text, sitting eight seats away from me.
Hey, I wrote, thanks for doing robotics. Thanks for being amazing at it. And thanks for letting me come along for the ride. I'm so proud of all of you.
A moment later he glanced at his phone. And a moment later, he replied.
I cried in the dark, and I said thank you.