just to see what it feels like, i find myself walking past the bedroom beside the landing on the way up the stairs.
i peek in and see the bedclothes unrumpled, just the way he left them. or maybe the way the cat did, as that old striped fellow wriggled out from his No. 1 curled-up napping place.
sometimes, if i’m drawn in, i take a few steps beyond the door, look around, breathe deep of what it will be like.
my firstborn blessed child is away this weekend, will be gone for a whole string of days, and i find i am practicing what it will be like to have him swirling about me, but not here.
like all important acts in life, we practice. try on the costumes. memorize the lines. we stand amid the darkened stage, look out on all the empty rows, imagine our part even when we’re mere supporting player.
in just two weeks my firstborn child, the boy who’s held my heart since long before i held him in my arms, he will walk across the stage and close the page on this chapter called being-at-home. he will move swiftly toward the day we pack the car, lock the latch and drive toward mountains in the east.
and for me that is a rather large bump to get around, so i am already hard at work, imagining my days without him in the deep of my midst.
i am loosening the cords of my heart. i am knowing there will be long strings of days when i don’t feel my arms wrapped ’round his now-broad shoulders. when i don’t see him leaning up against the kitchen counter, filling me with stories, with questions, with laughter from the bottom of my belly.
long ago, i set out to love this child with all the love that i could muster. and i have done just that.
oh, it has not shielded him from the arrows and the sharp knife edges that i had intended to keep from him. and it has not kept his days free from shadows dark and thick and, on occasion, frightening.
but because i set those roots so deep, because i planted him in the richest ripest place within my heart, i will need a little time, a little practice, to right myself, to be steady when he is gone.
so this weekend, then, is rehearsal. is practice. is learning how to be.
just a short while ago, as i futzed around the kitchen here this afternoon, when suddenly i heard a funny beepy noise, i discovered that he was sending me that new-fangled smoke signal known as a “text.” as i groped for my old phone, i found, lo and behold, he’s been sending me poetic texts since last night.
as he rolled, near midnight, through pitch-black kentucky, land from which i hail. and as he rolled this morning into the great smokies, where i lived when i was 3. and he gloried at the hills.
and in that beepy noise just a short while ago, he wrote that he had rowed the course in tennessee — clinch river, its name — where the race will be, come sunday. and the boat “felt really good,” he wrote, then added one last word, the coda to his stanza: “fast.” and i, nearly 600 miles from that river, read plenty into those four letters.
and so i am learning that he can stir me even in typed text on the keypad of a phone. and i will learn, i now know, to pay attention to my phone. to look for telltale signs that he’s dropped in.
if not to the kitchen after school, if not to the side of my bed late at night, on those rare bedtimes when he plops in the armchair, or on the window seat, to unravel his heart… even if not all that, i now know, i am learning, he will still — and always — find ways to stir me.
because when you give birth to love, and you spend years rocking it, and staying up all night with it. and when you walk it into the school house door, and let go of its chubby little hand. and when you sit along the sidelines of the ballfield, and wince, as he strikes out again and again. and when you watch him catch the wind, find friends, think in ways that make the teachers send you notes, when you watch him grow and stretch and never ever shrink from those things that would make you wobble, well, you discover that even when the bedsheets stay unrumpled, and even when the cat is the only one who stirs in that boy-filled bedroom, you cannot help but be stirred by love.
the love that always and forever wears the name of the baby boy whose head you kissed once upon a birthday long ago, as you anointed him with the one word that would forever be his and his alone: will — my sweet, sweet will.
row like the wind, my beautiful boy, while i take a crack at being home without you, without you coming or going as the sun comes up and sinks down low again……
do forgive this long strung-out love parting, as i–like the monarch caterpillar–find myself wriggling out of my skin five whole times before the chrysalis comes, before the stained-glass wings of the butterfly take their shape, soon to catch the wind.
and since i never want this to be about me and me alone, what have been the acts in the story of your life for which you too found yourself rehearsing, so when it came you might know your lines. or at least begin to understand your new part…..