I have never seen so many pictures of boys having fun at camp where none include my son. I am famished for data. I am a social media stalker. Just one image, one back of the head, one quirky smile, one hat turned sidewise that I recognize as his. I’ll even take sneakers or a sweatshirt. Anything that can fill my thirst for proof that he is out there in the world, on his own, doing just fine.
My mother, who is rarely lucid due to dementia, said yesterday when I told her “the boy” was at camp, and showed her the 1st day cabin photo, “Hmm. I can’t imagine him without you there.” Tell me about it.
A colleague once shared that the hardest thing about being a parent, and he was a parent of six, was that your whole job is to “love ‘em up, so you can let ‘em go.” It is like a parasite. It eats me from the inside out – this nexus of wanting his utter happiness – grounded in his own feet, recognizing his own resilience, feeling his power to do and make and be in the world – safe, sound, superb. AND yet the sternum-crunching miss of his sounds, his physical body within reach (even if he won’t let me hug him all the time) is literally, not figuratively, but literally painful to the touch.
It’s like a grief I had once. I thought I would never catch my breath. Walked out of the room, crumpled to the dirty floor, legs giving out under the weight of the loss. Forever, it seemed, I sputtered – quiet sobbing, wet tissues, dehydrating to a throb. I obsessively watched the movie “Keeping the Faith.” It was the only soothing. Who knows why – it’s not even about losing, obviously, given the name.
And yes, I know, the boy is coming home, G*d willing. It’s not a permanent thing. But it pulls at my core. Like there’s an ache. I am hating this stage of his growing up. Not because it is hard on him, but because I have to accept that what is good for him is hard on me. Not for nothing – yuck.
My husband says it is G*d’s great test for me. Bummer that passing feels so much like failing.
© Gabriella Strecker, 2016