Thursday, August 27, 2015

What You End Up Saying Instead of I Love You



It would be perfect: I had memorized every word the night before. Actually, more like the early morning of. At 2:19 a.m., I knew exactly what I was going to say and do when we dropped off our oldest son at college the next day.

I would stand before him, like the Virgin Mary. Offering gentle outstretched hands with my head leaning just slightly to the side, I would pull my child in close. Reaching up to smooth his hair, his trusting eyes would search out mine. I would smile with the peaceful restraint of someone who had just been drugged and sigh, "My beautiful baby boy. How proud we are of you, how well you will do this year. We love you so!" Then we would share a brief but meaningful hug with the end goal being lasting just long enough to cement the moment. His arms over mine, I would whisper, "Goodbye, my son!" I would then turn, no looking back, and walk to our minivan, on firm--not Jello--legs. And then, it would be over. Goodbye with a noble chin up like Margaret Thatcher.

Ha!

Wednesday's college drop-off went like this: Our son walks us to the car. We knew it was the goodbye. My resolve is to gift him with the reassuring calm of our love and wisdom. What sprang forth instead, was:

Use single-ply for toilet paper because double-ply plugs. You have to sleep or you'll start to feel depressed. Make sure you smile back so you look happy to be here. Never put your drinking cups mouth side down on counters because so many germs. Wash your hands because other people wipe their butts and they never wash their hands. I've seen it.

He tried to step away for air as I made his neck into a lifesaver.

Did that stop my brilliance? Nope. I shout directions like I did that night almost two decades ago when we first left him with a babysitter.

Clenching him by his shirt, I start anew:

Don't lend money. Look over your shoulder when you walk home alone at night and do not walk home with earbuds in so you can hear if someone is following you. Eat protein or you'll feel depressed. Always take a shower because it's like a miracle. So is a new shirt, so let me know and I'll send you some. Good posture and a good haircut save many a day.

Then I fall full-face into my son, in the same desperate way that he would try to crawl back up into my arms and out of his small plastic bathtub when he was four months old.

I couldn't stop. My voice muffled by his chest, I continue.

Read labels so you know what you're eating. In your white plastic bin are three bottles of vitamins and calcium each, take them. Change your toothbrush when it's splayed. Drink water. Keep a hat--earmuffs aren't the same--in your backpack. And an umbrella--because chills and rain come out of nowhere in Wisconsin. Move five minutes for every hour of sitting. If you think you need to go to the health clinic, don't think, go.

I force down the lump rising in my throat. I don't know why I am on this mission, but I am. I caw, Purell. Wet socks are bad. Be sure and see some blue and green every day, because scurvy is real.

All the while I am spouting verses that sound like Mother Goose, the real message has yet to happen. My beautifully rehearsed golden college send-off speech that I am determined to carry out.

It's now or never for the final goodbye, so I square my shoulders and step back. I open my mouth to bestow my practiced pearls of love and wisdom upon my son, and I hear a crackled glottal fry worse than a Kardashian fill the air.

Suddenly, streams. No, rivers. Waterfalls. I lunge for my son and a flood of tears that would not stop soak his shirt while I am back to swinging from his neck like a weighted pendulum. I try to break through but the moment swallows me up and I am croaking like a frog.

Never has my voice disappointed me more.

"Mom," my son asks, sounding genuinely puzzled. "Why are you crying?"

He asks me so simply, as if words could answer. I squeeze my eyes and hide my face in his neck. I pull on both his shoulders and want him to know that I just need him to do all these things I've sputtered at him like someone who has five minutes to blow up fifty balloons.

I can't be here anymore to make sure he does everything so I need him to.
I need him to listen to this manual on how to care for himself and all these things I've thrown at him will keep him safe, sound, healthy, happy.
I have taken care of him his entire life, and now, I won't be here to do it.
He has to be the one to make sure he arrives home every night.
Without earbuds in.

Because this beautiful baby boy, the one we are so proud of, the one who is going to do so well, we love him so much.

And if there was a google translator that he could plug in to make sense of my, "Wash your hands because others don't and earmuffs are not the same as a hat," it would tell him with 100 percent accuracy, "Your mama loves you so much it leaves her stupid."

* * *
 
*Special thanks to my dear friend who is walking this path with me, Peyton Price of Suburban Haiku, for providing the inspiration for this post. Times like this, friends carry us. 

31 comments:

  1. Awwww. I know the feeling and the dialogue. Never does come out the way we plan, but it always has the same underlying meaning.

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    1. My dang voice wouldn't work, mama. xo

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  2. This made me cry in solidarity with you. Loving our children to stupidity is a feeling I know too well. Crying all over them, yes, I've done that myself. Dropped my girl off for year two and it really wasn't any easier. All I can do is trust that all those unspoken words and worries were somehow communicated during the 18 years she was living at home. I'm sure your son will be as strong as you are, and will be just fine. Hugs.

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  3. WAAAAAAAAAA! And you had to put the photo? I almost made it!!! I opted for getting in the hug line a second time. hoping to go unnoticed. He was on to me though, so I went with "Make good choices"...ugh. Clearly I caught the dumb. Stay strong dear Empress (I admit, 9 days in, I have no idea what that means)

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    1. Andrea, it feels good to have your company. I love you, friend.

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  4. How were you watching me? Was I skyping by mistake again?

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    1. It's your friendship, Peyton, that is bringing smile through tears this week. I love you.

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  5. That last paragraph (and this whole post) is golden. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks, Ann. When the time comes, I am here for the not so gentle art of letting go. xo

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  6. :( He knows, he knows. I'm so sorry...

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  7. This is so sweet and full of love. I am absolutely positive that he feels the love around these words of toilet paper and earbuds. :)

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    1. Yes, Leigh Ann. The mom that loves him so much and who never makes sense. xo

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  8. Ohh.... gut punch. You've got me wishing I could cast a magic spell over mine and keep him little forever. Thinking about you. It'll get better??

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    1. Make memories, I used to do things and tell myself that. So glad, because this is what I have now.... seeing in my mind all the fun we used to have. xo

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  9. Oh Alexandra. I know loving so much it makes me stupid and I can so wait for this day to happen.

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    1. Right into stupification, Jennifer. xo

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  10. In two weeks, this is me. GAH.
    But I love this so much. "Your mama loves you so much it leaves her stupid." YUP.

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    1. Two weeks, Jill? Oh, please let me know how you do!

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  11. -----OOOOOOOOOOO, Alexandra,
    every word resonates, caused me to remember, makes my heart ache.
    When my son left last month for San Fran, I texted, "I miss you. I'm so happy you were born. I love you. What shall I do?"
    He texted back, "Mom, it's only been one day."
    Love and understanding from MN. x

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    1. :Only one day: as if. (they just don't and can't know what that one day means) I love you, Inner Chick. xo

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  12. So much love here, Alexandra. The image of him as a 4mo, crawling out of the bath into your arms...it slayed me. You are walking this path honestly and beautifully. Thank you for sharing your heartache with us, my friend. xoxo

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    1. Aw, thank you so much for the love, Liz. xo

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  13. Oh I feel you. For me I just clam up, put on a frown and say "Be good, I'll miss you" with a big hug. More and I would be a puddle.

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  14. I've never loved you more. The torrent of unbidden advice is the stuff of both humor and heartbreak, which is exactly where a mother's heart lives.

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    1. We are something else. I know our kids have learned to just love the way we are... xoxo Love you, lady. xo

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  15. Reading this brought tears to my eyes...big tears...I love that little boy so much it leaves me stupid too. Big hugs and much love your way.

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  16. Oh man, Alexandra. I'm covered in goosepimples and all verklempt over here reading this.

    You did the right thing. He may not remember it all, but know that he feels and knows and appreciates having such a wonderfully caring mother to return to. And I hope he listens to your "earmuffs are not the same as a hat" logic.

    You will always be his momma. Always :)

    Love you and much love TO you. Here if you need anything. XOXO

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  17. I read this post a few days before I dropped my daughter off at school, which is over 1100 miles away from home. I cried when I read it. I was able to hold it together while we said goodbye, but got teary eyed in the residence lobby. Missing her so much but I know she will have an amazing experience. Thank you so much for sharing your words and emotions so beautifully and sincerely. I love reading your blog. Your honesty, kind heart, compassion, insight and passion for life shines through. As well as your devotion and love for your family. Thank you for sharing your stories. Your sons are so very lucky to have you as their mom. Angela

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