Explorations of mind, paths, and life

The Secret Things I Think

Posted on May 12, 2018 - Filed Under adventure, feelings, gratitude, hudson river new york, JP, kid, mother's day, Parenting, self reflect, thoughts, travel

The Secret Things I Think… About my Son (Happy Mother’s Day to Me and all Mother’s of every nature – who understand the art of caring, loving, connecting, and nurturing)

There are a lot of things that I think and feel about my kid that I rarely offer up to him. Some of that is an awareness that putting anything in his mind about an expectation may hinder him finding his way. Another part of that is around wanting to honor his own awareness of self. Some of that is just me not knowing when to share, and maybe there are times to share, and things I should share.  Either way, Justin and I recently took a “planes, trains, and automobiles” trip (not in that order) that lasted nearly 3 weeks. I was blessed to spend that time absorbing his amazing-ness quietly as he offered up parts of his thinking and brilliance (more on that shortly) while navigating some unique experiences that left me wondering what to share and what to hold.

I don’t know what he thinks about what I think of him. I don’t know what little (or big) morsels of experiences with me, while he was growing up, offered up beliefs that perhaps are inaccurate, or keep him from connecting, or leave him afraid to disappoint. I noticed this the most when his appendix was slowly rotting in his abdomen and he endured several days of significant pain. Asking if he needed anything resulted in a null error.

I remember the day he broke a fever, and i had to attend finals with my students and also attend to my Artist Way workshop students during the evening. I had told him if he felt worse for ANY reason that day, to call me and I would drop everything. When I was done with classes and trying to decide the next steps in my schedule, stuck in Orlando, I called him to ask his status.

“I feel worse,” he said to me.

“Worse?” I asked, “can you tell me what that means?” He was known to be nondescript in his answers and often I was playing 20 questions. “What is your temperature? Does your stomach still hurt? What are you FEELING??”

“It hurts a lot,” he said.

I think I got a bit crabby with him, NOT because it was making me shift gears. I was happy to cancel class and reschedule things with my artist way students, as they would understand. I was angry that he hadn’t called sooner, that he was enduring pain and super quiet about it.

“I’m coming home RIGHT NOW!” I pressed, “and taking you to Urgent Care.”

We didn’t have regular insurance. I had always paid for a major medical plan, that covered any serious issues, so I anticipated a $200 visit to an urgent care. I had become skilled at negotiating small emergencies. Justin knew things like this cut into an already stressed budget. I was getting a divorce, and my ex was doing little to help keep up the costs of the house we couldn’t yet sell during the market crash. My clients had tapered off because of both the economy and as a residual reaction to the last term during my masters program when I had little availability as I wrapped up an internship. The college was cutting my classes as I reached the peak of they pay scales for teaching, having been with them for 10 years.

I scurried home, as best as Interstate 4’s ugly traffic would allow, and got there just in time to get him in the car and to an urgent care center that was due to close in 30 minutes. I remember the agony in his voice each time we went over a pothole or speed bump.

When we arrived and the doctor poked him, he barely made a noise. His silence was NOT ok with me. I growled at him (the doctor must have thought me abusive), “I heard something come from you, Justin, and if there is ANY discomfort you had best make more noise than that!” I insisted that the doctor poke his abdomen again, with more determination, and Justin grimaced. The doctor turned to me quite seriously, knowing we had a day of fever and several days of pain, and told me to go IMMEDIATELY to the Emergency Room at the closest hospital. He didn’t even charge me (blessed doctor) and kicked us out of his urgent care.

Needless to say the experience landed us in an agonizing week at the children’s care center, with a burst appendix, and days of recovery, and later a second stay while they removed a remarkably long abscess in his abdomen.  When Justin was asked to identify his level of pain on a scale of 1-10 he had stated it was about a 6 or 7. Clearly it was more than that, and I had to get down to the details, discovering that he thought a 10 was equivalent to death. I learned that Justin certainly doesn’t want to inconvenience me, and his tolerance for pain is strangely high, and I never felt more terrified about loosing someone more precious to me than my own life.

So, here I am in the car with my 22 year old son, driving the first leg of our three week adventure that would ultimately land us in NY to see his father who is still on a pretty difficult road after treatment for colon cancer. I offer him leeway to work on his thesis on the drive, using the hotspot on my phone to stay connected to the internet. He offers up these long mathematical sentences, while I am driving, that are supposed to be English, and even though he says what he is talking about is easy, it sounds like a maze of concepts that don’t match the colors and words I am used to playing with. I listen anyway, because I hope to understand his world better, because I don’t know how it is possible to love this creature any more than I do, but I do. I listen because he matters to me, and whatever he decides to make of himself is part of why I am on this planet. I listen because I see magic in his humor, and the joking banter we have as I play utterly clueless, even though I understand enough how spectacular what he is working on truly is. I listen because I hear my father, but with an even deeper gentleness. I listen because even though I struggle to stay focused, and math isn’t my thing, I know he is anchoring down a lot of data when he explains what he is doing. I listen because we don’t talk often enough about the world and who we are, so I only get these little glimpses into who he is becoming.

We decided some of this trip was intended to be a culinary vegan-venture. Each time we need a meal, he researches the area and we decide where we are headed. I seek his knowledge of me, and my fussy stomach, something he never pokes fun at me about, or begrudges, and I often take him up on his advice about what I may like. I try things, all kinds of veganous delights, and I am pleased. And when we go our separate ways a few times on the trail, I shove in a protein I like just to take the edge off of the hungry my body offers up as a headache. We travel well together, easy-going and light-hearted. And late nights, whether with family or friends along the road, he works on his paper or chats with his girlfriend, or sometimes offers his delightfully genuine energy to whoever wants to chat.

We explore Washington DC, using his Pokémon Go to get us from monument and museum after monument. We tire ourselves out, walking and Ubering, and using public transport to shuffle us from one end to the other. Vegan restaurants mixed in to each stop.

We train up to NY and spend a few days with his father and family. THIS is the experience that is most pivotal to me. Unaware of how old his father has gotten, seeing him so sick, and being around his blistering and seething energy (and yes, I know he is in pain, yes) and the dysfunctional loathing that moves around him and his family, I am suddenly very alone. I find my little 26 year old inside of me, recalling Justin’s father’s percolating rage during my pregnancy, and his abusive twists to my feelings. I feel desperate to take Justin back with me to the quiet and isolated AirBnB I have found along the quiet of a creek. Take him away from an atmosphere that feels so toxic I can’t breathe. I stay for a very short time, long enough to eat the Christmas Eve dinner Justin has been working all day to prepare. A dinner that no one bothers to treat as a “family meal,” everyone lacking a sense of the mere beauty that is Justin in the kitchen. Those long fingers moving across cutting boards, the care he puts to make sure everyone has what they need, the savory way he flavors and times every part of his cooking.

Scotts cynicism, crawling through discussions, Grandma Pat’s efforts to calm the kids, Scott’s brother’s escape for three hours once his kids were delivered by his ex. It feels like I have imposed this visit. It feels like the raging of my damaged 26 year old heart is asking to be seen. It feels like a wound reopened by the mere pressure of the experience. I kiss my son, eat his food, and disappear back to the cabin on the creek, as snow begins to fall, two boiled eggs and an oatmeal packet tucked in my jacket.

I spend the later part of that night grieving the loss of that 26 year old, and gently thanking her for knowing enough to walk away from the toxicity. I called my mother and thanked her for the loving home she helped to keep for Justin, and for how much she loves him. I poured my grief and tenderness for all the ways she kept that kind of ugliness out of his life, and instead filled it with endless kisses and gardening, and adventures traveling with my father. I called my sister to share the voice of my 26 year old self. I cried, and allowed the loneliness of being pregnant and unsupported seep in, while I took in how lonely this Christmas was feeling. I cried as I absorbed just how generous the universe is to have family I love and trust, to have a son that could stand tall in that kitchen and tell me it was perfectly ok to leave him behind with everything. I trusted that he would be the observer of his experience with them, and I just needed to trust that he would be ok. I needed to trust that he would make sense of his experience without my urgency to put my little 26 year old heart on his plate. I took in the blessing that is him, every day of my life, with a depth of wisdom not yet fully hatched, but warming him on this journey. I take him in with curiosity and gratitude.

Christmas morning I drank coffee and stared at the fresh swatches of white snow that covered the world outside. I held my warm coffee, bundled as I stepped outside. I hadn’t been in snow for many years, and the sparkling crisp air was delightful. I spent my time writing, nibbling on food until my car was shoveled out, and taking a quiet hike amidst trees and snow piles. My foot prints the only evidence of humans that morning. The rest a maze of animals busy finding their breakfasts amidst the patches of sunlight and tumbling snow heaps from the tops of moving trees.

And there, while I made snow angels like a 5 year old on the top of a hill, listening to the birds gossip about their night, I couldn’t have known any greater opportunity to heal and process; to make some sense of this life that is moving so quickly that the little bundle of laughter who ran naked through the house after every bath, is now a man, generous and warm, funny and fascinating.  I couldn’t have had a more beautiful Christmas gift, spending time with him. Justin is not a person to know how to gift, but he is so wonderfully genuine and giving of himself, so present in that experience. There are no “thank you’s” in his routine, but when you look at him you know there is a presence of being that  has gratitude.

When Justin was coming into the world, as I carried a complete stranger in the depths of my body, feeling him press and wiggle, and respond to my laughter and my soaks in the cool pool that summer, I knew nothing about who he would be. I spent endless days, while he nursed, gazing into those big brown eyes, smiling and wondering what he was thinking.  My most favorite sound was the rolling gurgle of his laughter, that would make my heart pound with delight.  And I find, it is still the same. I still watch his liquid eyes move and express, and his laughter still fills with me delight.  And, despite the many experiences we both have, that may bring aches into our hearts (and as I joke, fodder for our therapists) I can not imagine a world without his presence. He holds little bits of the soul of our father, and our grandfathers, and our great-great grandfathers.  I brought him into the world, without a scream, in a quiet space, and my first words to him were, “welcome to the world little one, I am so glad you are here.”  But perhaps, the words should have been to me, “Welcome to the world mother, there is no love like this.”


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