This weekend, George was invited to play in a Mendelssohn octet at the Toledo Museum of Art. I had just moved a state away for my brand new job, and I made the first of what will be many decisions to not drive back to Ohio. It was not an easy decision. It will never be an easy decision. But life requires making hard decisions sometimes. We are all learning that lesson.
I watched the recording and cried–my handsome, talented boy playing his violin with such grace and passion.
I unpacked boxes and made his bed in my new apartment. I stocked my pantry with almonds and quinoa. He’s a vegan now, my boy. Except when there’s ice cream. Then he’s “low key vegan.” But that’s okay. Life often comes in shades of gray. Black and white is hardly ever sustainable. And ice cream is good.
He had requested gray sheets for his new bedroom in Indiana, a gray quilt. Just gray. But for now, his sheets are mauve. They are the only twin-sized sheets I have, left behind by his big sister, his best friend, who will fly far, far away to college in less than 30 days.
Less than 30 days.
Within that time, my three oldest will be in three separate states, living three different lives. They need so little from me now, and my needs continue to expand: My need for them to be safe, to be smart, to be kind, to make good decisions, to eat some vegetables, to give to those who have less, to care for those in need, to hug, to love, to never leave a man or woman behind in a drunken stupor, to have a heart that breaks so they can learn it’s capable of mending, to be good humans… the best humans they can be. And to answer their mother’s texts. At least most of the time.
And my fourth. My baby. The last to form beneath my skin and under my heart. His mauve sheets are waiting. His almonds, too.
You expect the hard goodbyes when your babies pack up and move to college. You have time to prepare. Time to reminisce. Time to look through baby pictures and smile and remember. But this goodbye was unexpected, and I am missing that boy with every ounce of my being. He was always the one at my feet, talking incessantly, all up in my business. He was the caboose who clamored for attention, and he preferred his Mama’s attention over the rest.
He reminded me recently that he loved sitting on my lap when he was little, but that he often remembered me saying, “Sit still, George, or you’re going to have to get up! Your bony elbows are stabbing me!” And he admitted that he would sit until his tiny feet and legs fell asleep, trying to soften the points of his elbows, afraid that if he moved, he’d lose my lap.
That lap is empty now, taken only occasionally by a small, skittish puppy who is still learning to trust me completely. She misses Lucy, her alpha, who stayed in Ohio with George because Lucy’s old canine hips can no longer handle the twelve stairs up to my second floor apartment. I miss Lucy, too. But they have each other–boy and dog.
And I have this ache in my heart to touch them, to hold them, to have a squirming, precocious, golden-haired boy on my lap just one more time, to have a brown-eyed Lucy pup panting at my feet. “I think she loves me,” George said when we first saw Lucy.
And she does.
As I recently heard Steve Almond (his name so… serendipitous) pointedly proclaim on a Dear Sugar podcast, “The price of an examined life is a certain amount of sorrow.”
I examined hard.
And I feel it… this exquisite sorrow.
But there is, of course, the happiness, too.
Life often comes in shades of gray.