July 2005 Archives
July 31, 2005
I put my son on a train today. My 13 year old son. On a big, fast-moving, tin-can of death. Ok, so maybe it wasn't a tin-can of death but it was big and it was fast. And he looked so small and helpless standing next to it.
He's not small, really. He's a 5'7", 160 lbs., broad-shouldered, prepubescent boy. I KNOW, imagine how huge he'll end up! But I'm not talking size here. Or even his age. He's been through a lot in his 13 years. He tends to take things very personally. He's as soft-hearted as they come and he loves his Mom, sometimes to the point where I just want to say "Cut it out, will ya?! I need oxygen!!!"
I know I should be grateful he still loves me. It won't be long until he won't want anything to do with me. Maybe we'll be different. Maybe we can stay as close as we've always been through his teen years. I hope so.
Tonight, though, I wish I wasn't so close to him. When he hugged me on the platform, I could feel his heart beating. He hugged me harder than he usually does. He hugged me three times and looked back six times, as a matter of fact. He had tears in his eyes. I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses. When he turned to me one last time before going up the stairs and he showed me sign-language for "I Love You", I lost it.
I know ... I'm a total wimp.
But I love my son. And he has gone on a trip without me. In this scary, crazy world we live in now, I'm terrified soemthing bigger than him will swallow him whole.
Oh crap, what have I done?? I should be with him. I couldn't go with him. I didn't want him to go. That is a story for another day.
Right now, he is gone. The train has left Washington, DC toward Boston, toward his birthplace. He'll be spending 8 days in New Hampshire. With my family. I've asked him to keep a diary so that I'll know what he did on his trip. I figure he'll use the diary to vent his feelings and it may end up being his lifeline to sanity in the swirling vortex that is my family.
They arrive in Boston in 10 hours. He was born in Massachusetts but he hasn't been back in 10 years. I would have liked to show him Boston Garden, where I watched the Celtics and many, many concerts. But Boston Garden doesn't exist anymore. My Massachusetts doesn't exist anymore. I don't belong up there ... and neither does he.
This is my diary of how I cope with him being gone. Or not. Time will tell.
July 8, 2005
I would be writing about my son on his trip with my mom but THEY HAVE NOT CALLED ME SINCE THEY WENT TO MAINE ON FRIDAY.
I know there is no phone up there. I know there is no cell phone. I know there is no TV, no video games, no NOTHING and I can't imagine that they would be staying there for this long. But they must still be up there because NO ONE HAS CALLED ME.
Speaking of NOTHING, that is pretty much what I got accomplished today. I did swing by my mother's house today to feed her fish and water her plants, like a good daughter. Most of the day, however, was spent waiting around for the x to call back about seeing his daughter. After our less than pleasant exchange the other day, I wasn't surprised.
I was surprised, however, when my daughter told me, after making plans with her father, that she didn't want to go. I told her that she didn't have to go if she didn't want to but she felt as though she had to since she didn't go last week. In retrospect, I didn't think that was exactly an accident. She slept over a friend's house and told her father that she would call when she got back but she 'forgot' to call. Hmm ... how many times has he done that to her? Can you say payback?
So here I was with an 11 year old that doesn't want to go to dinner with her father. I asked her why and she said that she doesn't like to be alone with him, that they never talk about anything. I asked if she meant that she didn't have anything to say to him and she told me, no, he doesn't say anything, like he doesn't know how to talk to her.
She is a lot like me ... she can get quiet and withdrawn if there is nothing coming from the other person. She doesn't make idle chit-chat or small talk. She doesn't know how to 'fake' interest in things that aren't interesting to her, something that she may have to do when she is older. She also can not hide her emotions and when we were talking, she was pretty sullen and grumpy. I don't blame her. After all, she sat around all weekend not knowing when or if her father was going to call, knowing all the while that he didn't want to make the effort to come and see just her.
I wasn't sure what to do. I asked her if she could help me think of something that would make the situation easier because she actually DID want to get dinner, she just didn't want to have to sit with her father. I suggested she think of someplace she really wanted to go that her brother never lets them go when they are all together. No luck. I asked if it would be easier for her to get take out and bring it back here, knowing that her father has done that several times when the restaurant is too busy or if he's just feeling like he doesn't have enough time for them. Hmm, that was a possibility.
She was still feeling grumpy when I, after doing some consulting with my psychic (psychotic?) advisor*, asked if she wanted me to go with her as a buffer. Aside from my own reservations, I just wanted her to be happy and really have a chance to explore every possibility. She gave me this look like I had absolutely lost my mind and went across the room to sit on the couch and think.
Secretly, I was hoping she would say no because
1) I can't stand to be near him and being in a moving vehicle with him is sheer torture. Too many close calls.
2) He will make a big deal about paying and I will want to pay for myself and that will turn into a power play, complete with snarky comments about how much money I make.
3) I just didn't want to go.
After thinking about it for a few minutes, she came and sat with me and gave me her reasons why I shouldn't go:
1) I would be uncomfortable being with him for that long
2) He would want to pay but he would complain that he has no money
3) If I went, he would want to make a big show of us going out to eat as a family and it would take forever and be even more uncomfortable.
Wow, I hadn't even thought of the third one but she was absolutely right! The last time he talked me into going out to eat with them, he made comments to the waitress and anyone that would listen that he was out with his 'family'. There I was, wishing I could disappear or leave or something but I was at his mercy. The kids were so mortified.
She thanked me for suggesting I go and trying to help but in the end she decided she was going to try to talk him into going to a place that would be too busy on a Sunday for a sit down dinner in hopes that he would suggest they get it to go. She kind of felt like she owed it to him since she had blown him off the week before (and yes, she did admit it) but I don't think she did it out of malice. I think she just decided she would have more fun with her friend and that he would understand that, like I would.
What blew me away about this whole thing was just how matter of fact and logical she was about it. This is an 11 year old kid. Amazing. Thank God she got my genes, that's all I can say. YUP, I'm taking TOTAL credit for this one. I mean, how many kids get EXCITED About back to school? She couldn't get to sleep tonight because she was too busy filling up her new binder with paper and putting dividers in and color coding her subject notebooks and ... Ok, maybe she got a few too many of my genes.
* I keed, I keed
July 7, 2005
There are times when silence is a comforting blanket, a gentle wraparound of no sound that buffers us from the jangling noise that surrounds and drowns. The sort of smothering silence that a layer of snow brings, an insulation, a protection.
There are times when silence echoes with fear, the kind of fear that overtakes you in the dark while you stumble through a damp, dark basement, listening for footsteps that you imagine are right behind and you can almost smell the fetid breath that raises the hair on the back of your neck.
What am I listening to?
The sudden silence of distance, of busyness, of distraction.
The silence of absence, the sort of emptyness that a missing picture leaves behind it on a wall.
The unnerving silence of separation, of aching loneliness, of a closeness so recent I can still smell him if I turn my head quickly enough.
The sad silence of goodnight, accompanied by the closing of a door, without his lips on my skin. The silence of withdrawl.
This too shall pass. Tomorrow shall be louder and the next day louder still and the silences will be less disconcerting but, for tonight, they are looming dark and large.
What are you listening to?
UPDATE: my personal silence is nothing compared to the devastating silence of a mother cradling her daughter's head in her lap by the side of the road after watching her family torn apart or the sudden vacuum of silence that occurs immediately after a horrific explosion rips the heart out of a city. I realize that my silence is about the size of a dust mote and about as important by comparison, but it is mine and it seemed important in the moment. My apologies for being so selfish.