It’s raining today. It’s gray and dull and dreary out, and I’d like nothing more than to crawl back into bed and pull my down comforter up to my chin. I think about where I am in my life, and the highly circuitous path it’s taken to get me here. Never in a million years did I consider that I’d be someplace other than NYC, wearing black, being edgy, probably still in advertising all these years later. Definitely not married, and definitely happy about it. This was the road I’d chosen, and I was confident about myself and my chances at success.
And yet, 25 years later, I find myself married — all to one guy, no less — and the mother of three kids. That kids were so not in my scheme of things is a point I can’t stress enough. But you know what they say; life happens while you’re making other plans. Even two decades later (gulp), being a mother is still a very foreign role for me; I’ve never been comfortable with that label. I’m really not the nurturing type; I’m the kind of mother who eats her young. Despite that handicap, all three kids have managed to grow up into young adults full of passion and integrity. If I’m the source of their passion, TheCop has been the source of their integrity, moral compass, and ethical responsibility. Not too shabby for someone who constantly questions her parenting skills on a daily basis.
I check the time. It’s telling me I need to get moving and get on with my day. But still I resist, and my thoughts wander back to kids, specifically the youngest. The one who is both charmingly easygoing and stubbornly independent. The one I fondly refer to as DangerBoy, who collects scars and stories like I do. The one who finds himself in the ER so often we might as well have a punchcard for bonus points. The one who really isn’t afraid of anything and is always ready for a challenge. So much so that, when he turned 18, he enlisted in the United States Army, much to my shock and horror. It’s not that I’m anti-military; it’s simply that with so many options open to him, he chose to go infantry. As TheMom, I found that decision … regrettable. He was capable of so much more. Take a slot that would provide him with skills and a jump on a career path once he got out. It made little sense to me for him to choose infantry.
Less than three months out from his departure date, however, an emergency appendectomy changed everything. Surgery meant the Army no longer considered him fit for duty, and was processing him out. He’d have to wait six months to reenlist again, as well as another six to eight months before he could grab a slot in basic training. The recruiter promised to try everything he could, but couldn’t offer any real hope. DangerBoy tried to hide his heartbreak under a stoic mask of resolve, but in moments when he thought no one was looking, I could see the frustration coiled inside. The hopeless feeling that everyone else was getting on with their lives, yet he was stuck in an infinite holding pattern, being useless. While I should have been shouting from the rooftops with joy — hooray! there’s still time for him to change his mind! pick a new option! screw the infantry! — that damned parenting thing kicked my joy out of the way, and shoved my empathy in it’s place. Still, I quickly got used to the idea that I’d have been given a reprieve, and we had another year together.
So when DangerBoy showed up at the studio yesterday afternoon, I was unprepared for the news that the captain had indeed pulled strings and, not only would he not have to process out, he was leaving on his original departure date of November 6. November 6. The happiness in his face radiated into mine, and I was engulfed in a bearhug of joy. TheMom thing kicked in automatically, saying how wonderful this news was, and that I was so happy for him. And then he was gone, off to tell his dad — because, you see, he wanted me to be the first person to know. This time it was my heartbreak, masked by empathy, as my mind raced in objections. Only 18 days until my 18 year old left home forever. That’s too soon. I’m not ready. I couldn’t control the tears. I still can’t. They come, unbidden, in moments when I hope no one is looking. I’m trying like hell to process this, but I’m just not ready.
But it doesn’t really matter if I’m ready. He is. I just have to be able to let go.