Saturday, August 06, 2005

Eldest Son

I am so proud of you. You have finally done it. You have graduated from college. It took nine hard years of work, but you perservered. You had several offers over the years to quit school and go right into the work force, but you believed it was important to finish what you started. Now you can say you did.

I remember when you were born you were such a big baby, compared to your older sister. She was a premie, and by the time you were born she wasn't much bigger than you were. I think it made you closer than just the two years. Her development was slower to catch up and there were lots of times you guys were doing things at the same time.

You were always bugging her, too. But she'd get even. I remember you would throw things at her from your crib to her bed as you shared a room. She'd get tired of it, get up , and go take away your bottle. When you were older and in a bed, too, you would get up in her bed and sit on her head! We thought it was because her bed was next to a window and you were trying to look out, but when we changed your beds, you still did it!

You were so softhearted. Even as a little boy your feelings were hurt easily. Once or twice you threatened to run away and I sat up all night talking to you, then guarding the door so you wouldn't leave on a snowy night. Once at school when you were only in about 2nd grade, a couple of your classmates found a bird's nest on the playground and they knocked it down and killed the babies. You were trying to stop them and crushed when you weren't able to. That was the day you ran away from school - trying to get home - five miles across cornfields. The teacher caught up with you before you'd gotten too far, but you scared the beejesus out of everyone that day.

You were the first in the family to be pegged 'exceptional' in an intellegence way and asked to participate in the Talented and Gifted program. You never looked at it as an honor, but thought it was unfair to all the other kids that couldn't do some of the extra and cool things you did. When your younger sister was also in it, you two got together and decided that it wasn't really what you wanted, so you dropped it - but not before she had the trauma of public speaking where she froze up with stage fright we thought she'd never outgrow. (To our amazement, she later went on to cheerleading, speech contest and acting!)

You were quite the little guy - hard to argue with. When I had to go in and speak with the teacher in 5th grade because you weren't doing your homework, your reply was "I don't know why I have to do homework - I get A's on the tests, so the teacher knows I can do the work!" How do you argue with that?

You grew up with a step-dad, my husband, but we always tried to keep you connected to your biological dad. Somewhere along the way he took a step back and I don't know if I'll ever forgive him for it. You and your sister were occasionally called by your grandmother to go to family events, but more often than not she didn't even call you - just your sister. It was as though they passed you right over. I never understood that. You never said anything, but I know it cut you to the bone. During one of our conversations after you grew up you said "I always looked at step-dad as my dad" - but I respect the fact that you still try and reach out to your bio dad, even when he's not man enough to reach out to you. Someday you'll make a great father.

We didn't get along very well when you were in high school. I know you were sneaking out of the house, smoking, drinking, doing drugs. We tried to get in your face, but it didn't help. You counted the days until you could graduate and move out. Then you did and I felt a deep loss. I felt I'd let you down in the same way my parents had let me down. I didn't feel I was a very good mom. You had to live through my years of depression and anger and I know they had to touch you and your brother and sisters in their own ways, but I felt I really let you all down.

A coupld of years later we had a reconnection. Why, I don't know. I'd like to think I'd changed enough that the door was opened again. One time we were going somewhere and you played a song for me about a girl who has moved away from her parents and everytime her mom calls she says, "I'm fine...I'm FINE...I'M FINE!" but she's not. You told me that was how you felt after you moved out. You knew you'd made a mistake and you missed us, but you were too proud to admit it and come home. You said you realized we weren't as dumb as you thought we were. (Isn't that a mantra for a lot of kids?) I cried later that night thinking about how alone you must have felt and I hope you never have to feel that again.

I've seen you grow and mature. I've had more poeple come up to me and tell me what a nice young man you are. I've had people who know you from working with you - or, sometimes just know of you by your reputation. You have a good reputation.

Things have been hard. You've known heartbreak - living with your high-school sweetheart for years, then realizing it wasn't going to work out. You jokingly call it "the divorce", but you lost a lot of things in that separation - not only furniture, but chunks of soul. You've protected your heart ever since, but now I see a glimmer of maybe a softening again with your new girlfriend. She's really sweet - a genuinely nice person. Something you deserve.

I congratulate you on your graduation, son. I look forward with you to the new chapter of your life unfolding. One you've waited a long time for. I can't believe this is that little doe-eyed, dirty-blonde haired kid that could melt me with his smile. Aw, hell... you still melt me with your smile. I love you, honey.