Letter To My Son: Our First Summer Together

Jake,

Ten years ago, I was pregnant with you. Barely showing but feeling pretty strange dealing with the early stages of being newly pregnant. That could be counted as our first summer together. The first warm months living with the knowledge of your existence and my new role as a mom.

Then you were born in February, a rainy cold month and for the next few months I would bundle you and cuddle you as much as I could. Soon the rain dried up and the summer humidity hit and we spent your first summer keeping cool as much as possible. You wore very little those days, sometimes simply gurgling and rolling around in just diapers.

This was our first summer but in reality it was not truly spent together. I worked through it, keeping us afloat. We spent some time together when I wasn’t teaching or tutoring but for the most part, you were in the care of your grandmother.

In your 9th summer, my job had changed and I was home with you for the first time. After years of spending summer with your grandmother or in a day care or day camp, I was finally getting to be your stay at home mom.

I saw this as an opportunity to share with you new adventures and for us to bond again.

Little did I know this would be the summer I’d let you go. This would be the first summer I’d get to see you and all your abilities, independence, and confidence. I’d see your strengths and know you wouldn’t need me much longer.

We went to the beach together one day to spend some time with our toes in ocean and building castles in the sand like we had when you were little. I had these big ideas for us, that we’d chat and share and build together, never foreseeing that instead I would watch you walk into the bigger waves and play without fear.

Without needing me.

I’m not sad to say this nor am I sad to have seen it happen. All mothers know they will have to let go and let their little ones fly at some point but knowing when is the big secret. Try as we might to hold on as long as we can, there is no fighting the feeling when the time comes to release you.

When you weren’t battling the onslaught of waves, you played in the sand and chatted with others around you, never once reaching into the bag of beach toys you so lovingly played with as a child. I saw those bright plastic toys and battered miniature trucks sitting forgotten next to me.

Together we watched you blossom in front of our eyes. You no longer need either of us. Your toys were now memories tucked into a bag, covered in dust and sand from trips to beach all the times before.

It was then that I felt a little sadness creep up on me, sitting next to your forgotten toys. I felt my breath catch and my heart stutter a step as you ran headlong into the waves, abandoning the hole you were digging, and smiled back at me with joy. You were free and in charge. You were growing up so fast.

You stood up in the water, jumped through waves and ducked under others. You sensed when a wave was too big and you would judge each appropriately, all the while smiling and laughing.

Like life, the waves came at you from many different angles and at so many different speeds. Some were big, some were small. Yet you faced each wave with determination and confidence. As I watched you jump and play and swim, a part of me wanted to keep you back on the shore, hold you close and keep you safe from the unknown lurking beneath the surface.

And yet, as you turned to wave at me before you ducked beneath another wave, I realized you are doing alright on your own. You knew you could swim back to me if you needed something, your anchor on the shore. For the most part, you just swam and gave in to that joyous feeling of weighing nothing in the big, blue expanse that is the ocean. You went into each wave with confidence.

As the water washed in and erased your digging spot, covering it up with new sand and burying your past works, my sadness washed away with it, replacing it with pride and peace.

You will always be mine. From your smile to your stubbornness and your over active imagination, you will always be my son.

I can only hope from here on out that you’ll continue to want me around. The anchor on your shore. The smile that glances back at you as you take on each wave of life.

Your anchor always,

Mama

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Little Deaths

Our lives are about to change. In a short few weeks I’ll be leaving my job after 7 years and I will be starting down a different path.

In less than a month I’ll leave here and begin substitute teaching.

Yes, I’m returning to teaching after years of wondering if that would ever happen.

And I’m terrified.

First, I must say my husband has been super patient and very supportive of my decision. Hell, he encouraged me to at least fill out the paperwork and just turn it in. He saw it as an opportunity to work through that first step, just applying. When I got past that step and onto the next, the interviewing, he again reminded me that what was most important was just going through the steps and completing each one. And I did.

Then that step turned into a job offer and the opportunity to start substitute teaching this coming school year.

Sadly, I didn’t react like I think people wanted me to. I don’t think my brain has clicked over yet to how thing may be this coming year. Instead, I’m stuck on the fear of leaving what I know, the comfort of my everyday being the same. So instead of rejoicing I’m scared.

I drove back to work from my interview and realized I wouldn’t have to commute as far for much longer and instead of sighing in relief, I felt a pang of sadness. When I walked in the door and heard my dad and saw my sister in her office, a little hole opened up and my sadness deepened.

Since Monday when I received the good word of my hiring on, I dealt with little deaths along the way. Today I was asked to write my job description, explaining all the tasks I am responsible for at my desk. It wasn’t an odd thing to ask and made total sense but it felt like I was writing my own obituary.

I’ve never been in a situation like this before so I’m treading into completely new territory. First, I’ve never had a job for this long. 7 years… that’s a good long time in one place. Also, the last 9 years I’ve been the financially responsible adult for my son. I left teaching when an opportunity opened up in a better position so that he could have insurance and a steady income to not only cover our basics but also to stock away some savings while we were at it. and now I’m leaving that cushy job for another one that’s not as lucrative but it’s a passion I want to follow. It’s hard, I feel selfish and risky, feelings I don’t cope well with.

But I’m doing it, step by step. And I’m grieving as I go, letting those little deaths come and go as they please. I’ve got a few weeks until I’m officially done and moving on and by then I bet I’ll be thrilled and looking forward to my first day as a teacher again. For now, I grieve and fret over the what-ifs and the unknown.

For now…

Letter To My Son: Separation Anxiety

Little Man,

Last night, I began to cry as I tried to fall asleep. I realized in all the change going on in our lives that we’re spending less time together. Not that that is a bad thing, necessarily. You are getting some much needed boy time at home with The Guy while I’m getting some much deserved me time more regularly.

We were attached at the hip for so long. For the last couple of years, I was your One and Only. I did it all for you: cooked, cleaned, bathed, washed your clothes, got you to school and picked you up. On the off chance our schedules conflicted, I called in the help of your doting grandparents.

Now you have two parents in the home. Two people who love you and all your antics. We laugh when you get over-dramatic about bedtime and we cuddle you when you are concerned about the future. We’ll kiss your boo-boos and send you to bed with lots of hugs.

While the notion of having a second set of hands to help take care of you and give me a few minutes of free time to myself is wonderful and healthy, it hit me: we’re no longer joined at the hip. We’ve slowly started to release each other and seek out new attachments.

I couldn’t be happier for us both to have found a love so deep and so unconditional that we feel comfortable no longer being buddy-buddy 24/7. But this mama is also a little heartbroken. You don’t need me quite the same as you used to.

You are still  my little guy no matter how independent of me you become. I guess I just didn’t see it happening so soon. While I’m blindsided by this revelation, I’m also in awe of how much you’ve blossomed as your own person.

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You have this big personality that’s vibrant and strong. You fight tooth and nail for things you believe are right or things that you believe you deserve. And you love just as hard. There are times I just stand back in amazement of how wonderful you are, how funny and how genuine you can be.

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You are so open and bright eyed. Everything you experience is new and different because you are constantly learning and reaching out for more knowledge. I can only imagine that some of your growing pains are because your brain is creating a new wrinkle of knowledge constantly! I’m always in awe of your observations and understanding of the world you live in.

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You’ve bloomed so much in the past year, trying out new things and putting to work your imagination in different ways. Raising you has given me a second chance to rediscover the things I love like painting and reading and playing.

While the adjustment period hasn’t been perfectly smooth and we’ve survived a bump in the road or two, we still manage to come back together as a family each time. We both love you, Jakey and while you slowly stretch out your wings and begin to fly off on your own from time to time, you’ll always have us to come back to.

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And I’ll work on not being so emotional over this. Because if this is how I’m reacting and you are only turning 7 next month, I’ll be a mess when you turn 18. And probably again when you turn 25.

Hell, what am I saying? I’ll be a mess every year you move away from being the chubby, bubbly baby that came into my life. I’ll always be the tiniest bit sad when you turn another year older. But I can’t stop time and neither can you. We both are growing and changing.

Bathtime!

So stretch out those wings and soar, my little man.

And don’t forget you’ll always have your One and Only back at the nest, waiting to hear of all the new things you’ve discovered on your own.

Okidata

I stood limply, my hand resting against the cabinet that housed our servers and router along with other cables and cords all mixed and matched to make a roadwork of electric veins running along the floor.

An ink cartridge shuttled across the green bar paper, leaving behind a trail of numbers, customer names, and totals. The tape running from one side of the printer to the other shifted rhythmically as the shuttle pulled along the black stream of ink.

It was soothing to stand there, my body still except for the faint movement involved with breathing. I was lucky that was an involuntary body function or I may have completely forgotten to breathe. In the room next to me I could hear his voice as he explained to her the details.

The service would be held after the weekend. His son was planning the details. So far the family knew as did most of the county due to the paper printing the whole fucking mess.

I closed my eyes and listened to the scuttle of the printer as it spit out the report for that morning’s receivings. Such a small detail in the much larger scheme of life; a few pages with black ink organized into rows of information to be read, recorded and filed away, never to be thought of again.

The side of the conversation I could hear had turned into monosyllabic sounds in response to the person on the other end. It made sense, there wasn’t really a lot to talk about when suicide is involved. Just the details of the where, when, how and with what can be really discussed. After that the conversation becomes a silence so deep your bones echo it back through your body as you wonder to yourself the last question: why?

But instead of asking out loud, you keep that one to yourself. You do it a little out of respect for the dead and more so for those still left behind to pick up the shattered pieces of a broken life. But you ponder this question in the silence that follows the news that someone you knew, maybe someone you loved, took their own life.

Why did they do it? Was their life so bad that they saw death as the only way out? Why would they do this to their family and children? Why did it have to end this way?

Why?

The Okidata printer stopped and the report flopped over the edge into the basket below, pooling into a folded stack of figures and data. I bent over to pick it up and slowly pursued the front page but could see only a blur of black in between green and white lines with perforated edges framing it.

None of it made sense. The numbers, the collected data, the reasons, the grief. It all swirled together into a cloudy mess of anger and worry and sorrow.

Why? Why would there always be one question left unanswered?

Why did it have to end this way?

Don’t Turn Off The Lights!

The stairwell rings from the constant dip-dip of a leak somewhere within. The stained metal walls echo each bump and scrape as we shuffle down into the dark abyss. Rust paints the walls in drawn streak like vomit drying from giants standing overhead.We’ve stepped into a deep steel chamber of stairs leading down, down with no bottom in sight.

Creaking beneath our feet, the stairs stumble long, turning after every 10th step, taking us deeper and deeper. We pass a slit cut into the tainted steel walls every other floor and light shines in to illuminate the grimy rails that hug each turn.

My father is ahead of me, holding my small hand. I must be about seven years old based on how his warm, dry hand envelopes mine. Our footsteps sound dull and flat in this rusted tin-can  as we march steadily forward, down towards a funeral for a friend.

No one speaks and I feel as if I should try to comfort my father. His brown coat hangs limply on his worn figure as he marches on, leading me with his head hanging low. I try to speak but can’t find my voice, can’t drum up the vocals needed to make words.

I know why we are here, to mourn the death of a friend. But who the friend was or how we know them eludes me. The metallic clanging of the many feet trodding along the whisper thin, scrap metal stairs ring low in my head. A soft hum of mourning embraces my mind and heart.

As we reach the bottom of the stairwell, a stack of cardboard boxes await us, each filled with soda cans. Shiftily we search for any watching eyes as the people in line before us snatch up a box and duck beneath a low hanging doorway. Into another dim room with dust clouds floating through the thin sliver of light afforded by the slightly shuttered window behind us, each person in the funeral procession dips into the inky blackness and disappears.

I told tight to my father’s hand, uncertain of the dark room ahead but not necessarily afraid. Just grief stricken. I feel the feelings of loss tighten around my heart, squeezing inside my chest. Panic rises as I feel like I can’t breath, like all my happiness is being pressed from my soul and I begin to weep.

My father turns and I see nothing but aching sadness in his eyes. He slowly presses his long, pale finger against this lip and motions for me to be quiet. Then, as silently as a ghost walking through the memories of their living days, my father lets go of my hand and stoops to pick up his box of dusty, old soda cans.

My tears roll in silence as I watch his stooped back slip into the well of darkness ahead. Shuffling feet against the metal and the soft banging of hands using the railing for support circle around me as my tears fall, in sync with the leaking stream from above.

I reach forward, my sobs bubbling from my small body, and grab an old, dilapidated box of cans. They bounce against each other, tiny and thin, making small clacking noses as I step forward.

Looking up, my tears blurring my eyes and a stinging inside my nose burns as I try to hold back my sadness, I realize the inky well ahead of me is grief. The physical manifestation of sadness.

This room, these stairs, this place is what sorrow would be if it took form.

And I can’t get out.

Jinxed

In the early dawn light, just before the sky began to fade from inky blackness into the azure hue of morning, she felt his arm snake around her waist and pull her into his warmth. She sighed her happiness into the silent still air around their bed as he bent into her shape and together they dozed.

With a kitten’s purr, she shifted her shoulders to fit against his chest and let their contentment settle around them.

The alarm wasn’t due to ring for another 30 minutes but she knew she wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep now. With his breath against her skin and their legs tangled together, she felt herself slowly drift awake as the world outside slowly shifted from its own drowsy state of motionlessness.

She loved this time of the morning. When the breezes in the trees outside rustled the leaves with a gentle hand and the deep breaths of the sleepers ever-so slightly disturbed the silence. When everyone else remained asleep but, with her eyes closed, she was awake and thoughtful.

Drawing the cool sheet up against her chin, she lay there still, listening to his breath draw in and out, wondering if he was dreaming and what of. If he saw worlds of color and odd dancing figures or if his dreams were more realistic.

She felt him move slightly and smiled as he bent to kiss the back of her neck.

“Morning,” he said in his sleepy voice.

His deep, vocal bass rolled against her shoulders and her skin prickled excitedly. Hearing him first thing in the morning was one of the things she adored most, both for being the first to be greeted by him but also for the sleepy, thick pitch when he was just rousing from sleep. She smiled and greeted him in return.

“Can’t sleep?” he asked.

“Not really, just resting I guess.”

“Anything on your mind in particular? Or are you just being selfish and hogging the blankets all to yourself again?”

Snorting quietly, she adjusted the excess of fabric she never realized had gathered on her side. With the blankets rearranged and their bodies resting in the warmth of the cocoon they built, they both settled for a bit, trying to lengthen the early morning in the hopes of pushing away the day ahead.

But he was right, there was something on her mind. A question he had asked recently, one that would change their futures. She hadn’t answered but he hadn’t pried. He was giving her space and time.

She didn’t need it. She already had an answer. And a suggestion.

“Hun,” she started in a whisper. “About the other night…”

“Yeah?”

“Well, you know my answer is yes.”

Without a glance, she felt his smile beam across his face, like a child on Christmas morning. His arms squeezed against her in a tight embrace and he kissed her shoulder. Biting her lip, she continued.

“But I was thinking, what if we used my mother’s ring? You know, the one she passed on to me.”

Before she could continue the shifting of the pillow case beneath his head rustled as he shook his head in response.

“Nope. We’ll go out and pick out a ring. A fresh start, something new.”

She bit her lip. It would be nice to have her own but she was practical, logical. There was a perfectly fine ring not being worn just waiting for someone to use it. It seemed wasteful.

His body was still and she knew he was gauging her hesitation. He cleared his throat.

“I just think you could use a ring that’s uniquely yours to start this off right. Doesn’t need to be fancy but something that’s your and only yours. Besides, we don’t want to jinx us before we actually say ‘I Do’.”

Chuckling she responded, “I never knew you to be the superstitious type. What’s with this ‘jinx’ business?”

Glancing over her shoulder, she could see just edge of his face, enough to notice the smile had faded. Furrowing her brows together she turned to him.

“Well, it’s just that…” he began with hesitation. “I think it’s a good idea we start fresh and not with something from a past that isn’t what we want for our future.”

A deep breath collected in her chest. She knew what he meant. Pain circled through her heart as her pulse quickened and tears sprang to her eyes.

She knew exactly what he was alluding to.

Not long after they started dating, a deep rift tore open within her family and the ring she now had in her possession had not been worn for some time. It was simple and gold with bands twining around each other, housing a diamond at it’s core. It had become a symbol of so many feelings, both good and bad. Her childhood had been beautiful and filled with great memories. But the dissolving of her parents’ marriage had cast a shadow over the lovely diamonds and the tightly wound circle, symbolizing eternity together, a bond never broken.

The little girl in her still held onto the ring, wishing to wear it as her mother had in the heyday of their marriage when together they were a family, whole and solid. But the woman now laying here, agreeing to her own future with a man she loved dearly, saw the ring as a broken promise.

He was right, the ring would jinx it. Why carry on a past into their future that neither of them wished for?

Rolling into his arms to face him completely, she saw the grief lined in his face. But it didn’t reach his eyes. There she saw the love he gave her unconditionally. The light of future plans they had together, or dreams and wishes she wanted to make come true with him. Together they had weathered the storm and found they were stronger together than apart. While she watched and suffered along with her parents, he stood by her side, held her hand and let her cry in peace.

Smiling through her tears, she nodded and he nodded back. His smile was gentle and comforting as he reached down to wipe away her sorrows. She took a deep, cleansing breath.

“No more talk about that ring, ok?” he said reassuringly. “We’ll figure it out.”

And together they settled into the quiet morning, their arms encircling each other tightly.

Treading Lightly

I wake in darkness

as the walls press against me.

 

(don’t go, please don’t go)

 

I stumble through rubble and

pain

stubbing my toe against your

shattered mess

 

(what will i do, i don’t know who i am without You)

 

The ground is littered with

false hopes

broken promises.

A trampled heart.

 

(when will You come back?)

 

I step around, treading lightly

tears pound

the ground

and I wish I could fall

 

back

to

sleep and dream.

Peaceful…

 

[What Can I Do?]

 

I can only go f o r w a r d

and hope to be granted strength

 

Tomorrow.