The day before my son had a minor operation – some dental work under anesthesia – it rained. I remember because my husband made on ordinary comment about my brother, who had died during my pregnancy with my son, more than 7 years ago. Something about how it would be nice if he were here, something we say often. Something that would not have upset me under normal circumstances. But not long after, I found myself in the car, watching the glistening rain drops snake down the windshield before the wipers whisked them away, while my palms whisked the drops from my cheeks before my children had time to notice.
Afterwards there was a cold snap, with all its piercing barrenness, the clarity of the air so cold it made my skin ache. The night wind was so gusty it kept us all awake, our house creaking and moaning like an old man. And in the morning there was the brilliant sun, and that clear, face-burning cold.
And it became clear to me then that my feelings of grief had been so tightly wound up with my feelings of anxiety about the operation; the fear that, like my brother, some disastrous misfiring of neurons, some complex web of mysterious problems, could conspire to take him away from me, suddenly and senselessly. I had this same fearful feeling through the end of my pregnancy and much of my son’s early life; and it was as though my body was remembering, the same way my body has remembered to get nauseous on elevators and gag every time I brush my teeth in the morning, ever since that first, morning-sick pregnancy.
They say grief is the price of love, and I suppose the same is true of worry. I suppose every mother worries for her child, every parent gets a heavy dose of anxiety. But then, the most loving choice I can make is to let go of that worry, which is really about a desire to control what is beyond my ability to control.
It is warmer now, the sidewalk slick and shiny with melted snow. I watch my son crouch down in front of some daffodils that have sprung up early, gingerly pinching their tender, gold-green shoots with his fingertips, before his curious mind leads him elsewhere.
I sit in the sun and try to notice everything. The cool, fragrant breeze; the wide, sloppy mud puddles. The way my son’s deep, dark eyes seem to glow from beneath his thick lashes and mop of shining black hair, as it tilts and bounces over his forehead; the way his features still look elfish despite his limbs growing long. I notice his movements, now endearingly awkward, now startlingly grown up. I notice his deliberately precise and articulate speech; his intense energy; his tough-guy act; his little-boy sweetness.
He is my child. But, he is also his own. I can tend him and give him a good place to grow, but I cannot control the sun or the storms or when or how he will bloom. But I am thankful for that, as it allows me to love who he is, and who he will be, not the version I would create, or the limited story I would tell. I can love him, not as an extension of myself, but as a whole person, in all of his complexity and strangeness and surprises and growth through life’s unfolding seasons.
And love you I will, my son. Always and no matter what.