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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

These Promises of Spring

Rory did some time in the doghouse recently.  A little too much spirited backtalk, several days in a row.  Unnecessarily bold responses to routine inquiries that, if left unchecked, would surely become a habit with which I will never be comfortable.

"I brushed my teeth already."

"I finished my homework an hour ago."

"How should I know you wanted me to empty the washing machine?  It's not like you said anything."

You get the picture.  So I pulled the plug on Brother's runaway train.  Before it had a chance to leave the station and pick up steam.  And before anybody got hurt.

"No dessert.  No TV.  Three days, my dear," I told him.

Fortunately, these perks are still valuable currency to my almost eleven year old.

"Not fair," he groaned.

"Give me lip, and I'll make it a week."

There was brooding initially, which is always unfortunate because his sour mood impacts everybody in the house.  When one of us suffers a setback, we all seem to take the hit to some degree.  I also cautioned him that my company is a privilege and if it meant anything to him, he would do his best to earn it back.  Off he went to the bus stop on his own, in a considerable huff.

After he left, I reminded myself that this is true.  I am valuable.  Motherhood routinely teaches me how to recognize and safeguard my own worth, while I to try to teach my children about decency.  There's a lot going on behind the scenes with this gig.

Rory returned in the afternoon with his demeanor somewhat softer and less accusatory.  Fortunately, his happy life has a tendency to dilute even the worst cases of situational irritability.

"Mom, Grayson's riding his bike without training wheels for the first time!" he exclaimed as he burst through the front door.

"That's wonderful!  Did you congratulate him?" I asked coolly.

Let's face it.  Last time I checked, he was still pissed at me.

"No.  I forgot."

The disappointment in his voice was hard to ignore.  His kind observation hadn't earned him nearly as much leverage as he'd hoped.  I could tell he would have preferred the more loving version of his mom.  Instead, he was greeted with cautious reservation, and it bummed him out.

Rory took his science notes up to bed with him that evening, while the rest of us watched our favorite TV shows in the living room.

"You can study for ten minutes," I told him.  "Then shut the lights out.  Do you understand?"

"Yes," he replied.  His chin dropped to his chest.

Desmond made sure he laughed just a little too loudly at the jokes coming from whatever program was playing at the time.  So Rory could hear how much fun it was to not be in trouble.

"That's unnecessary, son," I said.  "Unless, of course, you'd like to join your brother upstairs."

Being a parent is labor intensive.  There are so many moving parts.  And I want my children to like me.  But I can't look the other way when they are disrespectful.  They practice their behavioral skills here in my home, but fortunately, so do I.  This is a vibrant testing area.

The following morning after Rory gathered his book bag and jacket, he looked for me.  I was sitting on the edge of the bed in my room, putting on my shoes.  He planted a delicate kiss on my cheek.

"I'm leaving, Mom.  I love you."

"I love you too, Bro."

"Today's gonna be great.  You'll see," he assured me.

"I hope so, honey."

I followed him to the door and waved goodbye.  His positivity was noteworthy.  But as he left the porch, he headed in the opposite direction of the bus.  I waited for a moment to see where he was going.

His little friends were coming up the street.  And as they got closer, I heard him say something nice to Grayson about his bike-riding.
I totally zoned out on a prompt in writing class.  My teacher read the class this gorgeous piece about spring and cherry blossoms and hopefulness.  I looked across the table at all the seats filled with beautiful volunteers.  Each of us, students assigned the task of interpreting feelings with the help of carefully chosen words. Like that's easy.

What are you doing here? one of the voices in my head asked.  You're not a writer.

Don't listen to her, another one replied.  Just pay attention to the exercise.  You'll do fine.

I made the mistake of looking at my phone.  I love the blinking blue light.  A text from my eldest boy!  The one who'd just about vanished for almost two years, resurfacing only several weeks ago.  A little banged up, perhaps, but remarkably intact.  I'm still thanking God around the clock.

"How is everybody?" Kirin inquired, as if he'd left that morning for the beach and absolutely no time had elapsed in his absence.

"Good.  We're all good."  I trembled when I spoke.  No one had seen him.  No address or phone number.  No social media.  "Honey, I thought you were dead."

"Aw, Mom.  I'm sorry."

"So am I.  I love you, Kirin."

"I love you, too."

What it all boils down to is love and acceptance, I suppose, in a broad and basic sense.  I can't change who he is, and he can't change me.  But the feelings are there.  We are trying a healthier approach to being in one another's lives.  And hopefully this time, we'll get it right.

Anyway, I couldn't concentrate on the poem.  My heart was so caught up in how much I love this young man.  All of them, actually.  My three sons, these promises of spring.  I stole another look at the phone.

Imagine that, I thought, Kirin is taking a shower and leaving for work in half an hour.  This is the most incredible news.

When the messages come in these days, they're still a shock.  Seemingly ordinary details are available to me once again, and they are categorically remarkable.  I tried not to seem so excited.  I wanted to jump in the air and hug everyone in the room.

I think I may have been struggling to forget him, because remembering was so painful.  I had nothing to go on.  No information.  That kind of worry is like grief, only without a body.  It's very confusing.

I hate to admit that I did the same thing to my mother.  Now I understand a little better what she must have gone through.  I found myself praying that God wouldn't make me wait as long as she had to, for me to come back around.  He answered my prayers.

*******

"Are you coming to the bus stop, Mom?" Rory asked.

Seventy five pounds of books pressed upon his firm, round shoulders, yet this child has no burdens to speak of.  His world is filled with fifth grade fun.  Hardly anything keeps him down for very long.  It's inspiring.

"Did you talk to Kirin last night?"

"No, my dear.  Maybe today."

"I can't wait to see him.  We should take him to the comic book store when he comes.  And the movies.  And the pool.  And J.J.'s for hotdogs.

"That does sound great.  I hope we can do all those things when he visits, " I said.

I only walked Kirin to school twice when he was a little boy.  Where I lived was too far, and I had no vehicle.  I leaned heavily on the excuse that I had a junkie boyfriend in my life, but I was also getting high back then.  I cared about my child very much, but he couldn't count on me.  I became an occasional visitor.  I dangled just beyond his reach, like a carnival prize of questionable value.

I thought about these memories as I finished making up my bed.  Life can be so funny and sad and wonderful and worrisome and excellent.  It's hard to make sense of things sometimes.  I keep God close, and I feel like it helps.

"I'll walk you to the bus, Rory, but only if you promise to hold my hand."

"I'll hold your hand, but only if you promise to let go at the corner."

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