Wednesday, March 25, 2015
As I head into the end of Alexander's junior year, as I revisit Joseph's short time with me, as I look into the impenetrable future, wondering what will happen to Nick, I begin to assimilate the idea of a future that belongs to me.
I was a stressed, guilty, discontented young mother. I found toddlers and preschoolers to be maddening little tyrants. When I was little, I played alone. I read. I listened to music. I imagined and dreamed and danced. I enjoyed my imagination, uninterrupted, creative and full. I loved silence that let me hear myself. Three little boys in quick succession meant next to none of those things and my inability to feed my own soul lead to a lot of distress for me. I didn't know it would be like that. I didn't realize I would struggle. I dreamed of them, caressed my growing baby bumps for each individual boy, felt them move and wondered who they would be with a kind of incredulity reserved for the purely miraculous and magical. The first time I held Joseph, he overwhelmed me with a devastating love. They took my very soul with their perfection, their little shining heads, their endless craving for me - my time, my touch, my presence, my food, my skin, my attention. I was so unworthy of it. I loved with a mightiness that overwhelmed me and fell again and again on the rocks of my guilt for all the times I strained away and struggled.
I wanted so much for them and yet I was so flawed. I could provide so little. They got hurt. Guilt. They got tired. Guilt. They banged on the bathroom door. Round and round I would go, lost in fascination and love, then devastated by my separateness and my internal drive to maintain that. Other mothers seemed to come to it so naturally, to savor a world that revolved around and around that unrelenting need. I fantasized about escape from that broken cycle of intensity, love, then guilt, then pain. I contemplated running away. I fantasied about staying overnight in a hospital with good book. I daydreamed actively about the day they finally grew up, stretched out their wings and took flight. I just knew I would be great at letting them go. The perfect mom, finally able to satisfy a need in them with grace and wisdom, launching them into the air, shielding my eyes and watching the beauty of them fly off to their individual purpose. No emotional clinging here; no staking them to me with my inability to accept life as it moved on. No Sir, not I. It was something I never doubted. That part, I would do right and they would love me for it and ultimately we would all get our happily ever after.
Then Alex got a brain tumor. And my father died with so many unresolved things between us. And then Joseph got sick. And got better. And got worse. And then the unthinkable, the part you never, ever imagine other than in flashes of horror when you hear it happened to someone else....then Joseph died. The very universe exploded. No part of me remained. I sucked in my breath and I never exhaled.
Nick has left school and is lost at this time, a typical example of a typical family in these typical times. I am overwhelmed with worry, with guilt, with frustration and with resentment. Plans are made and discarded, agreements earnestly agreed upon as the sky falls and casually tossed aside when the clouds clear, with every inaction seeming to dare me into causing conflict I do not want. I search the Internet, I search my soul and I wonder if I have the internal energy for another battle I ultimately don't have the power to win. Failure to launch. Apparently it is rampant these days, with kids as old as their 30s. Who knew. The only thing I am certain of is that I am not in it for that kind of time frame. My daydreams now are of a two bedroom cottage too small for boomerangs.
Alex gets closer to his senior year and my "take off the leash and let them fly" mantra burned up somewhere in the fire of Joseph's death. I'm sad. I'm anxious. I feel what might be a kind of PTSD, the loss of Joseph mangling the impending graduation of my youngest. Its funny. No part of me wants to hold him back. But I feel a deep, guttural hurt inside.... grief that he may go, fear that he may not.
As I mature into my maturity, I find myself drawn to things I would not have been before. Carefree hairstyles. Bohemian colors and textures. I want that little cottage with its overgrown garden of flowers and whispering trees on the land. I want to drink a beer at 11 AM. I have spent half my life avoiding the sun and cigarette smoke, gloating that I will look young for a long, long time. I feel the positive freedom of rebellion to report that I am getting a tan this summer. I just decided today. Not by chance on vacation, but by intent. I want to be a tanned person for once in my life. I want to wear hats or kerchiefs in my hair. I want bare feet; I want a dog. I feel as if something has cut loose inside me, like a pent up, fought-against snort that dissolves into a giggle fit in the middle of church, one in which nobody but me understands and may seem like insanity to some, downright rude and wrong to others, and to fellow kindred spirits, the start of something with the potential to get hilariously out of hand. I want to be sacrilegious to the things I "should" do, "should" want, "should" be. I want to taste the freedom of giving in to the whims that are mine alone.
I probably won't get a dog.
I changed irrevocably when Joseph died. The Next Big Thing is here again, already, and I find myself, instead of cowering from and fearing the changes, racing toward them, laughing like reuniting friends, almost with a kind of frantic relief. I find in the heartache an unexpected well of opportunity. I will be my own salvation. Once again, I am not who I thought I would be.
Anyone up for a beer?