I have spent so much time when I think about Joseph mourning all the things he didn't get to do and it goes without saying that those have been some pretty dark moments and hopeless, bottomless thoughts. It has made me near to crazy wondering what he might have been when he grew up. To not have gotten to see him graduate high school or college. Or even middle school. To not have known what he would look like now on the breath of 19.
His brothers have continued to grow and change and raising them is one of the most joyful and yet difficult things I have ever had to do.They are growing up and growing away. Every passing day they seem more bonded with their father, less interested in me; at times less considerate than I feel I have raised them to be. Each of these little moments I am dismayed to find strike a chink into my carefully laid out plans of being the kind of mom that lets go, that gives launch, that smiles into the sun as they fly. The thing I didn't count on was how clumsy it would be, for all of us. The need to reinforce manners and the resentment when I do so. The reminders to keep the cell phone on when out at the mall (after all, that is what we have provided it for Son, right? RIGHT?!") and that it is not okay to answer every blessed text message recieved except the one that comes from Mom. The arrival of the occasional bout of surliness, unkindness or indifference. When did saying "I love you" become something that hangs in the air awkwardly between us? When did the desire for a bedtime routine fade away? I feel bereft to realize it passed by almost without me noticing, drifting off in a whisper that faded so subtly that the silence left had been there quite a while before it became loud enough for me to hear. One day I realized all the lights were off upstairs and nobody even said good night. When did the courtesies they took such pride in extending me become something difficult to remember? People assure me it is normal and temporary, but on my side it feels anything but. And I hate...truly HATE.... how I sound in typing this out and how I feel struggling with it inside. I wasn't supposed to be that mom. I had a hard time parenting small children and looked forward to their becoming rational beings with great anticipation. I've enjoyed them as they have gotten older. I have loved hearing their thoughts and concerns about the world and looked forward to finding out who they are going to be. It never occurred to me there was any chance who they are going to be might be someone who has no use for their mom. And frankly it never occurred to me that if they did drift away that I would be the kind of mother who would cling, shed tears and nurse a wounded heart. It isn't like me, or at least not the me I thought I knew. So much of my world right now doesn't feel like the me I thought I knew.
I wonder if I am normal. If I am feeling this too acutely to be healthy. I find myself re-experiencing the intense feelings of loss for Joseph and once again with nothing sensible to pray for other than peace and acceptance and a life full enough on my own to make this transition. Nick and Alex are going to grow up and leave, to pursue their lives and their dreams. It is what I always wanted for them, what every parent wants. And I knew reaching that point can be a long, painful, awkward process with a lot of pitfalls. How vain of me to assume I would float over all that in any sense, both because of what we have been through together and because of what I assumed my parenting style would be. Because I assumed I have already suffered the ultimate loss, so their leaving can only be made softer by it. Ha! Joke's on me. If cancer parents have PTSD, having the two of them mature past what I can provide them touches on all my hot spots. I think the saddest part is that Joseph has now become a way to comfort myself. I never had to watch him grow apart or lose his regard for me. He'll always be the boy on the brink of manhood who was young enough to still need his Mom. Few fights. Few unpleasantries. Not much stubborn pulling away. No chance to disregard the rules or say things he would forget the next day but would sting me for a long time to come. I hate being so easily wounded, so raw and touchy and bruised. I hate that I am not ready for this despite a lifetime of preparing for it. And I hate that I feel like it caught me so off guard. Guess it is a good thing I got a cat.