S has this thing she does with M. She asks him how long she can keep him and he typically says, “26.” He decided that when he is 26, he will move to his own house on “the big road”. His friends (A and M, brother and sister) will move in with him and he will have us over for breakfast. A couple of weeks ago, we got an answer other than ’26’. When S asked how long she can keep him, “‘Til you are 26?” she asked.
“No,” he said.
“Because I am going to die soon.”
(Insert heart hitting the floor here.)
This has stayed with me since, coming from behind and slapping the back of my head every now and then. When I remember his words, my chest tightens and I lose my breath, praying that he is just working through things in his head and that he doesn’t actually know something we don’t.
2013 has been a shitty year. M has learned a lot this year. Maybe too much. I try to chalk his statement up to that. We lost a pregnancy he was invested in. My mom’s best friend died and he came with me to her memorial service. He doesn’t know it, but my dad had a minor stroke today.
He has seen a lot this year. I wonder if our decision to be completely honest with him has exposed him to too much, too soon. I don’t know what the alternative is. I can’t lie to him, but I want to protect him. Where is the middle ground? I just don’t know.
What I do know is that life is short and shit happens. No matter how much I try to protect him or prepare for the ‘what ifs’, I just can’t shelter him from all hurt. No matter how much I want to. And that sucks. I guess that is all part of the letting go that happens the moment a child is born. From that first moment we let someone else hold him to my last breath, I have been and will be giving him the world and to the world.
I think that is my life’s work. The letting go and the moving on. Maybe that is everyone’s life work. Maybe it is holding on too tight that holds us all back, our children included. Just maybe.