I can remember that one moment, when I needed him and he needed me too. It didn’t last for more than a second. Or so it seemed.
“Five months until I can choose to do WHAT EVER I want to do,” he reminds in a voice that sounds more like a threat than a reminder.
I hear my 18 year olds stinging words and silently pull the knife from my back. I am bleeding. Quietly. He is my last born child, getting ready to head to College. It’s bad enough that he is leaving. But there are other factors that make his next exciting journey cast some shadows on mine. Like the fact that he is going to live out his dream playing lacrosse, in Florida, which means that while he is warm, I will be here in the cold, and no longer get the joy of watching his sheer grace on that lacrosse field.
I love this boy. From the moment he was placed in my arms, I have been in awe of his beautiful face, his incredible spirit to make us laugh and his uncanny athletic talent, even at the ripe age of 3. Unfortunately, I am mostly in his way. So instead of doing what I really want to do, like pull his 6 ft long body onto my lap, I reach for my camera. My long lens seems to be the only way I can get that close without annoying him. So I click, click, click. Every event, game, occasion, holiday, vacation…click, click, click. It’s not that I don’t want to be present in each moment, it is just that I fear it will be gone before I am ready. Like the moment will pass too quickly, leaving me with nothing more than an ache in my heart.
Before age 5, he had figured out that I might not be cool enough to be his mother.
I did my best to ignore that fact and continued snapping away on my camera, praying he would turn around. Maybe even ask for help. He grew to be the kind of person I wanted to be…light on his feet, confident to do as he wanted and no trouble speaking his mind. I grew to understand he needed space, and he grew to understand that I didn’t. We compromised. Well, mostly I did the compromising, but instead of feeling sad about him not wanting to let me in, I hid behind my lens. Pretending to be close.
He had a swagger, way before he knew what the word meant.
Behind my lens I could feel safe. I could watch his face, his expressions, his laughter with others, his intensity and his skill and beauty on the lax field. Behind my lens I felt connected in a way that made sense to me. Yet even more importantly, it gave me the chance to be near him even after, as he would scroll through them all with a smile.
I love him. Dearly. And as he pushes each of my buttons, claiming his stake in his 18th year of life, his freedom, his need to be separate, I feel dizzy as I move further and further into the backdrop of his life. Ironic how acutely aware I am of it now, when actually I have been here for quite some time. My brain scrambles to remember the short lived smiles and hugs he once gave freely, silently wishing we had more time.
I remember when his smile was a simple determination to make me smile along with him. When his energy was as contagious as he wanted it to be.
And I remember when it changed. Way before I was ready, without any warning at all, he had that look. The one that turned all of my words into a look of ‘really?’ His head would cock to the side and his eyes would reveal his story, his complaint. His thoughts leaking from his brain: ‘Did you really just say that? How are you my mother?’
I did my best to smile. To cover up my undying love for him. To tone it down. And kept the camera rolling…but I knew what that smile meant and that if it could speak, it would surely say ‘Really???’
I needed him way before he arrived in my life. I needed everything about him. I needed his electric world to light up the one I had carefully designed that was way too still. And I remember, the very brief moment when he needed me too. It was about a decade shorter than I had hoped and a very long decade of hiding behind my lens. But I have cherished every moment that allowed me to capture another memory. A piece of time I could carry in my heart and play over and over again.
“Five months,” he says loudly…as if he can hardly wait to be freed from me.
“I know,” I say sadly. I miss you already…but will always remember when.