Love for him
July 25, 2017
Everyone I know who used to blog and doesn't anymore says the same thing: growing kids. When kids are little, it's easy and lighthearted to talk about their lives. When they get older, it gets unbelievably more complicated.
When kids grow up EVERYTHING gets more complicated.
I want to respect my adult kids' lives. I don't want to reveal what's not mine to share. At the same time, I miss talking about what's real and important to me. So this is my attempt at a compromise. I hope it's careful enough; I hope it's true enough.
When Max was three, he was gripped by the worst night terrors I ever saw. Deep in the darkest and most bewildering hours of the night he stiffened and reached out. His feet shuffled, then kicked. His arms flexed. Soon he was writhing, clawing and punching the air, bellowing at nothing. He seemed determined to hurt himself and the people around him.
As his mother, with love for him knit into the very flesh and bone of me, my job was to hold him. I reached around him and circled his wrists with my fingers. I folded his arms across his chest and pulled him close, pinning him against my heart. I whispered words of comfort that he could not hear and waited for the storm to pass.
This happened four and five times a night, for months. Sometimes I was so tired that my vision shimmered. I moved carefully as I could through my days. Some days I didn't trust myself to drive.
When Max was eighteen, a different storm gripped him. He lashed out, seeming determined to hurt himself and the people around him. I longed to reach around him again, as though these fingers could fit around his man-sized wrists, as though these arms could span his shoulders and chest. I wanted to pull him close and hold him still and wait for it to pass.
But as his mother, with love for him knit into the very flesh and bone of me, my job now is to let go. My hands dangle, useless, at my side. I don't think he can hear me and I'm not sure what to say anyway.
He is gone from me, out on his own, and has been for nearly a year.
I'm doing pretty well, actually. This may sound cold, but I have lots of people I need to be here for, not least of all myself. I think of it like living with a chronic illness. I am careful with my heart and opt out of any drama I can. I have only so many emotional spoons to spare.
Some days missing him howls through me. Some days I can feel the love that lives in and around him and I know he's going to be just fine. Some days I only look at the other parts of my life and sift them through my fingers as if everything were perfectly normal. Occasionally I even talk to him, and some days we are both kind and reasonable. Some days we are not.
Always I am his mother, with love for him knit into the very flesh and bone of me.