one last whirl: a lesson in savoring
i should have done this a long time ago. years ago. but, like many, many things in my life, i started late. was behind the average. way behind.
according to the centers for disease control, those fine governmental folk who track these things, the average maternal age for a second birth in the U.S. hovers just above 28. i was 44.7. i remember clearly the saturday afternoon when, knees shaking, i called my obstetrician to tell her the little white stick (aka home-pregnancy-checker gizmo) had just turned happy blue — i was, gulp, miraculously and against all odds and medical prognostications, “with child.” without taking a breath, my dear doctor rattled off the dreary stats: risk of miscarriage, 60 percent; risk of down syndrome, 1 in 32; risk of not surviving till the little bugger’s 18th birthday, 5.5 percent. (i’ve got 349 days to go….)
tell all that to the magnificent 8.0-pound baby boy born on august 8, 2001, at 3:22 in the morning, his big brother, father, and a phalanx of doctors and nurses (who’d rushed in the room when things got dicey) all in attendance. he and i plowed through every statistical obstacle strewn along the way. which is why his names, first and middle, mean “God’s gift,” (in greek), and “gift of God” (in hebrew). he was birthed — and named — in prayer upon prayer.
and now, all these stats-defying years later, said child is beginning his last year of high school this coming monday, which means this old house has entered official countdown mode. every step along the way, from now till the day we pack him up and drop him at some dormitory door, will come with modifier: “the last,” “the last,” “the last”….
what that means for me is that i dial up the savor knob, and even in the middle of a humdrum summer’s afternoon — while he’s ensconced in his little room at the turn in the stairs, and i’m chopping in the kitchen — i might just get a hankering to call up the stairs, and remind him for no reason whatsoever that i love him more than life. (to which he might moan “uh-huh” in humdrum reply.) i even find myself plucking inside-out shorts off the floor, smoothing rumpled sheets on his bed, and not minding one little bit because i know — full-well — that a year from now, i’d do anything to be able to pluck evidence of his presence off the bedroom floor.
i’ve lived — for the last seven years — with one foot in faraway-child mode, and one close as close could be. i know full well just how much that distance makes me ache. just the other morning, in faraway connecticut, i dried the tears as the shuttle pulled away from the curb and hauled me to the airport, my second-year law student disappearing behind the cars and trucks and light poles as the van turned the corner and i could see his broad shoulders no more.
like i said, i’m late to this. so late. plenty of my friends — from high school and from college — have long known grandmotherhood. know what it is to have the little rascals come for sleepovers. watch their firstborns cradle firstborns. not me. i’m still penciling in teacher conferences on my own calendar, making sure my rascal’s up and out of bed on the days the school bell rings.
i don’t know from empty nest. ours has not been empty in a quarter century. and we were married 27 years ago tomorrow. we mostly only know “nest accessorized with child.” come college shove-off next august, it’ll be the first time in 26 years that there won’t be another pair of feet clonking around the floorboards up the stairs. won’t be a soul to listen for as i lie there in the dark, awaiting the click of his key in the front door.
so until we get to that eery silence, that absence that’ll make this house an echo chamber, i’ll savor and savor and savor some more. my hunch is that i’ll be less cranky in this year to come. i’ll even relish smelly socks. and empty pie plates left overnight on the kitchen counter.
i know how absence feels. i know what it is to find myself in tears in the grocery aisle, because i’ve just reached for the something that i’d always thrown in the cart — but suddenly there’s no need anymore; the someone who always loved it is being fed by someone else now, someone in a college cafeteria. i remember full well how hard i tried to re-wire my brain, my being, to wrap my head around the notion that some kid i loved now dwelled hundreds of miles away, called home once on sunday nights in those first few months when he, too, was trying to find his place in this new equation called long-distance.
as always, i’m late to this. and i might be the oldest mama in his senior class. but gosh darn it, that only makes me wise enough to hold this year as if it’s the last. because, well, it is.
how do you intend to savor this next whirl around the seasons?
bam, you have not been late, you’ve been garnering experience, been in training in the real life arts and sciences, for the complex job of motherhood. What could a 28-year-old bring to the task compared to a 44.6-year-old?
If you think the old house might sound too hollow in the coming years, maybe consider a “down-to-earth BNB” for those of us who sit around the online table! Don’t panic, it’s just a fantasy, but how many of us would not love to spend a weekend cooking, chatting, reading, porch-swinging, woods-rambling and sitting at the real knock-on-wood table with you? Of course we have a retreat each week with your words, from the serene to the thought-provoking to the enlightening. And I am grateful for that.
ooooohhhh, i rather love that idea! whole weekends of chair pulling up. if my fine friend and housemate of 27 years, BK, heads off for work adventures, i just might find myself ringing the dinner bell for all the chairs to be filled round the old maple table……
hard-shells, too, would be invited. xoxox
Once again, I know you will cherish every single second of this school year. Your dear high school senior is beyond blessed to have your ever-adoring presence in his life…
Wouldn’t it be heavenly to have a dinner for all the chairs? Even if the journey to you would prove too much for this old ankle, the mere thought of it delights me. xxx
for you, we’d rent a helicopter. or whatever was that speed traveler that george jetson used!
Have been in Michigan with my work group and just now have had a quiet moment to read and to savor. (Your blog is not something I can read on the run. I need to take it in.) I distinctly remember the moment, standing in our small condo kitchen, when I realized, “He’s going,” as our eldest readied for college. Nothing was ever the same. Our time with him decreased, as time with the younger two expanded and changed. We missed him mightily, and still do. He went to Nashville for college and never returned, forging a good life and success there. #2 son lives away now, too. As do the grands. I’m babbling. It’s hard to have them far away. My heart is with you in this savoring year. You are an exemplary mother, and your boys are blessed to have you, whether near or far. It will be quite a change for you. Be sure to give yourself the great amount of grace you give others. ❤️💙
i, like you, will take this year one sweet step at a time. savoring, savoring……