Life would be so much easier with signs. Real signs. A sign like we saw while honeymooning in Mexico. While unclear, we had a good laugh trying to make sense of it and after several pictures, we began to ask around. Finally, a cab driver understood our question.
“Meet right here”, he said in broken English pointing to the sign. “In case of an emergency, meet here.” I wondered why we didn’t have signs like these at home, making life much simpler.
Back in my real life, though, different signs were present. They weren’t green, stationary, consistent or very helpful. Instead, they pointed to a case of senioritis that had gone on too long. Signs that said read: when committed to playing D1 lax a year and a half before graduation, it’s going to get messy.
Yes, these were different signs, and while not in Spanish, not easily interpreted either. Actually perhaps it was simpler than I wanted to admit. Simple in that even with free unlimited texting capabilities, all my questions were answered with 2 answers: No and IDK. Can’t get much simpler than that!
I began to think the signs pointed to: Let’s simplify.
Me: When will you be home?
He couldn’t let me down if he hadn’t committed to anything, right?
Me: Do you want dinner?
That way I wouldn’t be annoyed that I made it and waited for him, but instead he could show up and simply say, ‘I’m hungry, can you make me food?’
It was all going fine, or so I thought, until he pushed me a bit too far and I said ‘No.” Like, no, you can’t actually drive an hour in an ice storm. I said it nicely. I said it like I had said many times before. But this time was different because he had already endured one year and two months of senioritis and his lid was about to blow.
And so, he heard me, and went anyway. After all, he was heading to college in a few short months, why would he need my approval now?
I felt shocked, then appalled, then sick with worry. Mostly, though, I was heartbroken that I could no longer keep him safe. That my voice was not as loud as his. And that he suddenly belonged more to the universe, than to me.
I did what most would do. I took his keys temporarily. Senioritis or not, he was still here and there were still rules.
He did what most teens would do. He went to live at dads. This was an obvious sign.
It read: Fine. Be that way. I don’t need you.
It was a hard sign to read. The letters were sharp and jagged. Cold and calculated.
Each night I awoke to the sound of my pounding heart, acutely aware of the gaping hole. The sense that our ties had been cut, before I was ready to part from him. The sense that we no longer had five more months to hang on, but that he had left already…without saying goodbye. I cried a river. Every time I thought about him, I would cry some more. I would hold it together while my day ran amok, then would cry some again.
I questioned my ability to parent, and why he didn’t love me. I wondered how it was possible that he didn’t understand my love for him and my yearning to keep him safe. I cried as I thought about how much I wanted to cheer for him during his senior year, and how he had silenced me.
But what if that wasn’t what the sign read at all?
My mom believed the signs said something completely different.
“You’ve done a great job,” she said, “he feels almost ready to fly and is trying to convince himself of his ability to leave the nest and take off.”
That made sense to me. I could see him as a tiny 3 year old screaming, “I’m going downstairs!” and then looking for my approval and asking quietly, “Can I?” It was no different than now, minus the question mark. Surely he could see his shiny shoes of freedom just around the corner. The corner that lead to a life of doing, not asking. The corner that would call for his confidence and fearlessness on the D1 field and being a plane ride away. The corner that was going to rely on him making his own decisions and keeping himself safe. The corner that did not include me.
I wanted to call him and say, I get it. I understand. You should get ready for that flight, because you’re going to be great! But please know that no matter what comes along your path, no matter what time it is, or where I am, you just have to look for that green sign. In case of emergency, we can always meet up at the green sign. I’ll be here.
I didn’t call, because the noise on his runway is way too loud to hear all of my words, but I sent him a mind pen pal. Maybe he can read it later…