Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Following the Map That Leads to You

I miss the taste of a sweeter life
I miss the conversation
I’m searching for a song tonight
I’m changing all of the stations
I like to think that we had it all
We drew a map to a better place
But on that road I took a fall
Oh baby why did you run away?
I was there for you
In your darkest times
I was there for you
In your darkest nights
But I wonder where were you?
When I was at my worst
Down on my knees
And you said you had my back
So I wonder where were you?
When all the roads you took came back to me
So I’m following the map that leads to you
"Maps" by Maroon 5

Lately I've had bits of that song replaying in my mind.

I know it's a romance gone bad. A struggle to find what happened and went wrong.

But in so many ways those broken hearted songs could also be from a mother missing a child, a true love that even those most committed of lovers can't quite understand.

I find I spend time in my head sorting my way back to Ethan, as though I could unravel what went wrong and make reality different somehow. It's a wasted exercise. It's a silent conversation with my son, "Why didn't you? Why didn't I? If I'd only? We should have...."

There are times that I feel as though I'm wasting all the mental energy I should be using for a million other things simply trying to change the past, to reconstruct something that will make the present different and I get so tired of it. In reality, I'm still struggling to grasp his death and the end of all our conversations and dreams, our shared existence.

It doesn't take much to bring that on, although certainly when this song actually plays on the radio that will do it.

A "Hiring" sign at a job he could have done makes me think of him and what could have been.

Someone talking about their college plans reminds me of all he wanted to do at one time.

Encountering a teenager that I want to grab and shake because he reminds me so much of Ethan in that 'life happens and eventually I'll sort it out because I have no plans way,' and in the meantime he's doing nothing and making bad choices.

The sometimes crushing realization that it's been two years since I saw my son and touched him and that that number will only grow as I get older, but I don't think I'll grow to miss him less. He'll forever be stuck in my mind as the overgrown kid who hugged me at E1's fourth birthday party, picking me up because he thought it was funny that he could, slumped in the back seat of my parents' car as they drove away. I didn't want him to go, ever, yet because of his drug use I couldn't let him stay and there was just never any way around that.

I wonder if he ever really knew how much I loved him, how precious he was to me, how badly I missed the real him that was so often lost in a narcotic haze, or even just the physical presence of him in my day to day life? Perhaps he felt the same way, but the drugs were always between us and we could never find the map that put us back together.

So I listen to broken hearted romance songs and sometimes I cry for the man I lost.

The man I gave birth to and watched grow up.

My son.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Good-bye My Little Preschooler, Hello Little Girl

Today I sat and held a squirming preschooler, her bony sit bones stabbing into my thighs, for the last time.

Tomorrow morning E1 will walk with her mom into a kindergarten classroom and cast aside the title of preschooler. It's a momentous day.

In many ways sending my oldest grandchild off to school is a bigger deal than when my firstborn started school. The children's mother had been in an organized preschool for a couple of years or maybe longer. She'd already been navigating the society of kids her age for a long time. I'd been leaving her with sitters since she was six weeks old.

For most of her life I'd been trusting someone else with her well being a portion of the time. I had to work. Her grandparents worked. Family care was not an option.

So school for my little girl was just a different place and different people. It was walking in on her own and learning new lessons.

She also was closer than she had been at preschool. If she were sick, or, God forbid, had a splinter she wouldn't let the school nurse touch, most of the time I was just a few blocks away. Working at the local newspaper I knew the people at her school and was in and out on a regular basis long before she sat foot in the doors. It wasn't a new place to me either.

Besides there had never been a school shooting, bullies didn't pick on cute little girls, and the world felt like a safe place.

Now two and a half decades later, school isn't always a safe haven of learning and growing. I've seen girls in preschool gymnastics already huddling in the snobby little cliches their mothers probably inhabited. Random gunmen have killed small children in schools more than once. And unlike my own children, E1 hasn't been thrust into someone else's care for much of her childhood.

She's been with her parents and grandparents -- people who love her and would die for her, people who always have her best interests at heart, people who try to protect her from the unsavory bits of life as long as possible. (Yes, all right, she's been with me a lot of the time and I'll miss her doggone it.)

Her friends and playmates have been the children (and sometimes grandchildren) of our friends. They are a group of kids we know things about raised by people we know things about.

Tomorrow all that changes.

The children who become her friends may be temporary or lifelong confidants. Either way they'll influence her decisions and help her choose good or bad.

They may use drugs and fight(or not fight) addiction together like Ethan and his friends, or they may show up with their new baby at a birthday party like my daughter's bestie did last weekend.

There's no crystal ball to guide us; no longer a way to filter and protect her.

It seems at times a precarious place for a 5-year-old, but at the same time a wonderful place. So much to learn and discover, so much about herself that she's just going to start to know, and the fact that now, at least, the mistakes are usually easy to correct and the right path not so hard to find, helps mitigate the terror of the unknown.

Today I said goodbye to our preschooler. Tomorrow I'll begin learning about our little girl.